It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and the festive season kicked off last weekend in London with the perfect treat: the Hyper Japan Christmas Market, a three-day celebration of the land of the rising sun. Music, theatre, art, fashion – they had it all, and MCM Buzz was there to enjoy it.
Taking place in the Tobacco Docks in London, the venue served as the perfect setting for a Christmas market. Decorated trees were dotted around the building for the alternate festive market, and with two floors of gift and food stalls, a live stage for those performing, and a variety of workshops for fans, it was certainly a jam-packed weekend.
Of course, the most important part of Christmas is gift-giving, and Hyper Japan gave guests the perfect opportunity to buy presents for their fellow otakus and Japanophiles. Contemporary items such as anime, manga, J-pop, J-rock and vocaloid gifts were all tempting you to splash the plastic. Companies, such as Aeon, JP Books and Tofu Cute were all on hand to sell their highly-sought after products, while on the traditional side, two of the most captivating stalls were Ukiyo-e Heroes, and Doll Studio Tomo.
The first, created and run by Jed Henry, showcased stunning wood block prints of contemporary Japanese pop culture icons. From Studio Ghibli to Pokemon, the art is drawn in late 1800’s and early 1900’s Japanese style. At the event, Henry explains his reasoning behind starting the studio: “The Ukiyo-e movement has a lot of pop culture in it, and if you look at the subject matter that they chose to depict there’s a lot of famous kabuki actors and illustrations of famous stories.
“Back in the day they knew that a lot of these prints were pretty, but they also knew that they were ephemeral, like how we appreciate magazines now, so Hokusai and others were more like illustrators rather than artists.
“When I realised that I thought, if this tradition would have continued to our modern day, what subject matter would it have? And I thought about pop culture. These days, people around the world that are interested in Japanese culture are interested in the nerdy side – and I say that as one of them –mso I started with anime, manga, and games, because that is where Japanese culture is most easily found in society today.”
Doll Studio Tomo, meanwhile, continues a much older tradition of doll-making. Tomoharu Morishige, the sub director of Tomo, is in attendance at Hyper Japan with his collection of hand-made dolls. Morishige explains how how the dolls have been prepared with extreme care and precision by three-generations of his family, using kimonos from the Edo (1603-1868), Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) periods in Japan, as well as real hair that’s used especially for doll-making.
Morishige himself is responsible for creating the doll’s body, while his father makes the doll’s hair, and his grandmother makes the kimonos. At the event, Morishige also unveils a doll designed especially for Hyper Japan, wearing a kimono embroidered with sakura (cherry blossoms) on one side and English roses on the other: a beautiful illustration of his delight at being able to present his work in the UK.
What would Hyper Japan be without its musical guests, though? This year’s Christmas market marked the first appearance at the event for many musicians, and for Visual Kei bands Wing Works and Lacroix Despheres it was their UK debut.
The former’s performance saw ex-Lolita23q bassist, and Wing Works frontman RYO:SUKE take to the stage to present his “hybrid shock music” to the crowd on Friday and Saturday. After going solo and debuting in Japan in 2013, it has been RYO:SUKE’s aim to bring his music to the rest of the world as soon as possible, and Hyper Japan proved to be the perfect introduction to the UK.
Getting a crowd going when you are the only one onstage is no easy feat, but the singer did it with such flair that it didn’t take long for the crowd to start jumping and singing along to the music with him. Dressed in silver, and wearing glowing bracelets, the Visual Kei singer proved to be a big hit, with his singles “RAVVE OF MY TRINITY”, “FIXATION BOY” and “FENNIX” receiving the best reaction from the audience.
Hyper Japan was also the first time that the Visual Kei Symphonic Orchestra Lacroix Despheres had a concert outside of Japan. The band, who are famed for mixing music with theatrical story-telling, appeared on Friday and Saturday to entertain the crowd with songs from their two-part album Dernier Paradis, in which the band members play characters from 19th century France. Wearing intricately designed outfits to suit their roles, the band re-enacted the story behind their music. While they are considered to be a part of the Visual Kei music scene, it was clear at the event that their symphonies set them apart from other bands in the genre. Even if the concerts were the first overseas for the band, it did not mean that they don’t already have a strong fan base in the UK, a fact which was proven when Sho, the singer of the band, was presented with a Union flag signed by their supporters at the end of their concert on Saturday.
The market was also the European debut for “Kawaiideath” global sensation Lady Baby. After shooting to worldwide fame earlier this year when their music video for “Nippon Manju” went viral, the band have made waves in the Japanese music industry with only four songs in their repertoire. Ladybeard and Rei-chan performed on all three days of the festival for fans, despite fellow member Rie Kanako having to pull out last minute for personal reasons. That didn’t dampen the group’s enthusiasm, though, as they sang and danced their heart out at each performance, with their final concert on Sunday afternoon being the most electrifying. Their final show also coincided with Rei-chan’s 15th birthday, and she was presented with cake, flowers, and presents from the UK’s Lady Baby fan club during the performance.
Hyper Japan really is the perfect place to immerse yourself in Japanese culture, no matter what aspect of it you may be into. The event will return for its summer festival on Friday 15 July to Sunday 17 July 2016 at Olympia, London. See you there!
More photos – click on them for larger versions:
Feature & photography by: Roxy Simons
For more information on the companies and bands mentioned in this feature:
- Wing Works: http://wingworks-official.com/
- Lacroix Despheres: lacroix-d.com
- Lady Baby: http://www.clearstone.co.jp/ladybaby/
- Doll Studio Tomo: http://doll-tomo.com/
- Ukiyo-e Heroes: http://www.ukiyoeheroes.com/