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Gems of Japan: Why is Christmas popular here?

Dec 23 // Lindo Korchi
As I parked my bike to explore the city by foot, I began to notice how department stores, bakery shops, and even train stations catered to the holiday season by displaying decorations, the Christmas cake (usually a sponge cake topped with strawberries and whipped cream), and special baked goods. Many Japanese nationals walked in awe of the illuminations & were filled with smiles; their reactions were as if they were experiencing Christmas for the very first time. Slightly puzzled by witnessing the Western influence, I asked my Japanese friends why Christmas was popular in Japan:"Japan has looked to the West for influence and has adopted some of their holidays. Like Halloween, we take it as a day to have a nice time out, dress up and have fun. The same with Christmas; it really doesn't mean anything to us, it's just for fun, nothing serious." one stated."Christmas is like Valentine's Day in Japan. It's a time where people go out with their boyfriend or girlfriend and have a nice time. It's also why some Japanese people feel lonely during Christmas if they don't have a partner; some get the courage to ask out the person they like before Christmas to avoid being alone for the holiday. But it's just a nice time to go out. Also, many parts of the city become lit, which makes it a pretty and happy time." another friend mentioned.While Christmas isn't a national holiday in Japan, I learned that Christmas doesn't have a significant purpose as it does in the West and is used more for enjoyment than religious purposes. Christmas in Japan also tends to focus more on spending time with those you hold precious rather than exchanging presents. Additionally, Christmas Eve tends to be the highlight; a special day set for couples to enjoy each others company, stroll around the city as they view the illuminations, have dinner at a restaurant, and exchange gifts. As for Christmas day, fried chicken tends to be the tradition, in which people actually place orders in advance, specifically from KFC. Interestingly enough, some accommodation spots also use the holiday as a way to bridge the gap between Japanese nationals and Western travelers as a common interest between the two cultures. This approach has been easy for both parties to form new connections. And while Christmas isn't celebrated in the same way it is in the West, it's interesting to see how Japan has adopted the holiday to be harmonious to their way of life.Do you enjoy the fact that Christmas has been introduced to Japan or do you have different views on the matter? Don't be shy to voice an opinion -- let me know. [Photo Credit: Urasimaru and Isado]
Gems of Japan photo
Two Locals Tell Us Why
As I cycled through the streets of Tokyo, Shibuya to be specific, I couldn't help but notice the Christmas lights and decorations throughout the city. "This can't be what I think it is; the decorations surely aren't set up fo...

Review: Japanese Tattoos: History * Culture * Design

Aug 30 // Josh Tolentino
Japanese Tattoos: History * Culture * Design Published by: Tuttle Publishing Written by: Brian Ashcraft and Hori Benny Release date: July 12, 2016 MSRP: $9.99 (Kindle [Reviewed]), $17.95 (Print) ISBN: 978-4805313510 The value of Japanese Tattoos is immediately apparent given the relative absence of substantial English-language work about the art and design of Japanese tattooing, or "irezumi" (刺青). Generally speaking, irezumi literature in English tends towards overly dry, scholarly analyses, or superficial, aesthetically-occupied picture books and feeds. Ashcraft and Benny position their book between the two extremes, delivering a breezy, easy-to-read explainer that isn't afraid to dive below the surface and uncover hidden nuggets of cultural knowledge and history amid the striking design work being etched right into the human body.Honed by years of writing as an editor for the game website Kotaku, and by previous books like Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential and Arcade Mania!, Ashcraft mixes his light, accessible style with deeply researched cultural references and engaging profiles of famous Japanese tattooists and their clients. Japanese Tattoos isn't to be taken as a piece of academic writing, but instead as an FAQ of sorts, answering key questions and providing interesting insights and background, to help those who aren't yet sure about their interest in irezumi become interested. And in this respect, Ashcraft and Benny have succeeded in spades. Part of this is thanks to the way the book is laid out. As befitting its role as a cultural primer, Japanese Tattoos starts with a general overview of irezumi, its history, and importantly, what distinguishes it from the tattooing practiced elsewhere. Historical notes link irezumi with older practices of tattooing as a form of punishment for criminals, or as protective symbols "worn" by laborers and tradesmen. The section also traces the longstanding Japanese stigma against tattoos to the 19th and 20th centuries, as the country raced to modernize after centuries in isolation. Ironically for a stigma born of attempts to "align with western morals", it turned out to be those same westerners  - particularly the occupying U.S. military following World War II - that played a part in keeping tattooing alive despite the attempts to ban it. [From Japanese Tattoos by Brian Ashcraft and Hori Benny] That leads into another important aspect of Japanese Tattoos: It's aware enough that culture isn't a monolithic, static thing, and that even "traditional" irezumi has changed over time. In rejecting the notion that irezumi is tied solely to any one thing (such as tebori, the classical method of inserting the ink into the skin with bamboo needles), the book reaffirms irezumi's uniqueness as an expression of Japanese culture, encompassing more than a specific technique but "an entire history and catalogue of iconography". Interviews with people like Horiyoshi III, Japan's most famous tattooist, reveal this progressive insight. Despite his mastery of tebori and his inspiration in classical woodblock prints, Horiyoshi III regards his work as less "traditional" than "traditionalist" thanks to his use of safer, modern ink, of mechanical tattooing machines, and the new, friendlier (and legal) conditions under which he works. It's an acknowledgement that even the most classical, "timeless" aspects of culture are subject to change and interpretation over time. That sentiment might seem in opposition to the permanence of the tattoo, but it's worth pointing out that tattoos change as their wearers do, by the virtue of being embedded on their ever-changing physiques. It's an embrace of mutability and the transitive nature of life that speaks to Japan's Buddhist influences. A tattoo may last one's whole life, but even that life ends. These reflections are woven into the other sections of the book, which cover popular and common motifs and elements in irezumi, with frequent asides and sidebars to deliver factoids that readers will want to recite back to their friends. The asides can sometimes feel a bit distracting from the chronological coherence of the book, but they're too good not to include, and so their somewhat scattershot arrangement is easily forgiven. [From Japanese Tattoos by Brian Ashcraft and Hori Benny] From classic kanji script tattoos to the natural images, mythic beasts and figures, and even avante-garde and anime- or manga-themed designs, Ashcraft and Benny look in on the iconography, symbolism, and meaning behind the many classical elements of irezumi in Japan. Other chapters, particularly one covering various examples of the full "bodysuit" design, also focus on the form irezumi can take. Bodysuits and sleeves are the most visible archetypes of Japanese tattooing, and their placement in the book highlights that association. Never again will readers see the awesome back pieces on display in the Yakuza games in the same way. The book is also chock-full of great pictures of tattoos. Even in my relatively low-resolution review copy, the quality of the art shone through, and keeps the flow feeling as brisk as the prose. It's one thing to read about the peony's place in floral language as used in irezumi, but another to see it incorporated on people's bodies as a form of art and expression. Japanese Tattoos is a must-read for anyone interested in tattoos and Japanese culture, but its greatest strength is in how easily it can engage readers like yours truly, who have no plans to get a tattoo at all. Being able to engage with all that material despite its near-total irrelevance to my personal experience is the sign of a good book, and this one will serve as an effective crash course in irezumi for many a reader to come.   [This review is based on a copy of the book provided by the publisher.]  
Japanese Tattoos Review photo
Tattoo, not Taboo
What comes to mind when one thinks of "tattoos"? Some might imagine the anchor on Popeye's forearm, the pointy tribal band encircling a local gym fiend's bicep, or the crude inkings associated with prison art.Thinking of "Jap...

History of Japan photo
History of Japan

Learn a bit of Japan's history in a fun 9 minute video

Why isn't history class this fun?
Jun 03
// Red Veron
Learning is fun but school can be boring and monotonous at times when information is just dumped onto you in a continuous stream that you don't get to digest any of it. But how about we turn that large info dump into a short ...
'Lucky Man' race photo
'Lucky Man' race

Check out Japan's recent 'Lucky Man' race event

May the winner have an amazing new year
Jan 10
// Salvador G Rodiles
When it comes to receiving good luck, most of the requirements for this blessing usually require a prayer or a special type of offering. However, there are some cases where you'll have to compete against a large group of peo...

Japanese New Year photo
Japanese New Year

Take a look at Japanese New Year Celebrations!

I want the fooooood
Jan 01
// Red Veron
Happy New Year! We had a great one here at Japanator and enjoyed many things this past year. I hope everyone had a great year and enjoyed their New Year's celebration! The whole world celebrated the New Year and since yo...
Japanese reality photo
Japanese reality

Some misconceptions about Japan

Not everyone dresses VK?
Aug 13
// Hiroko Yamamura
Two of my favorite Youtube vloggers, Sharla and Rachel have thrown together a cute little video talking about a few misconceptions about Japan that visitors might have. It's worth a whirl, and the comments section of the vid...
Maguro wedding photo
Maguro wedding

Chop the head off a tuna on your wedding day

This dude has some sweet hair
Jun 24
// Hiroko Yamamura
Slicing a wedding cake together is so passé nowadays. Why not be hip and butcher a giant sea creature with your 3D waifu? With hair like this guy, you know there's no way his wedding is going to be less than awesome! ...
Sumo photo

Canadian makes impact in Sumo debut

Homarenishiki starts to climb the ranks
May 22
// Soul Tsukino
It's not often you see a representative of the great white north inside the sumo halls of Japan, in fact it's been 30 years. Not since future WWF pro wrestler, the late John Tenta, made his debut in 1985 has a Canadian taken ...
Katana photo

So there's a katana made out of meteorite

The power of the heavens
May 14
// Hiroko Yamamura
There's not much cooler than a traditional forged Japanese katana. That is of course, unless there a katana made out of meteorite iron! Guess what? There is. So yeah, if you happen to be visiting Tokyo Skytree anytime soon, I...

Is New Japan Pro Wrestling the new WWE?

May 12 // Soul Tsukino
Since the closure of both Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling and Paul Heyman's Extreme Championship Wrestling 15 years ago, TNA was viewed as the number 2 company, the "alternative" to the WWE. Started by Jeff Jarrett and his father Jerry in 2002 and having been run by Dixie Carter and her family for nearly as long, TNA strived to set itself apart from the WWE for years. Notable concepts like the 6 sided ring, the X division, and the various concept matches they have created over the years were an attempt to set themselves apart from what Vince was producing. But, try as they might, TNA never really made a dent. The company struggled to turn a profit since the beginning. They had some high profile departures within the last few years with long time cornerstone A.J. Styles leaving after TNA failed to agree to a new contract, along with stars like Chris Sabin, Frankie Kazarian, and Christopher Daniels. They lost their long time business partner in Spike TV and have settled on being aired on the much less carried Destination America channel, a move that has cost them up to 2/3rds of their regular audience they had beforehand. And although they have done some of their "special" events on Impact, their weekly show, they haven't aired a "live" pay per view show since last October (and that event itself was pre recorded from Japan). Impact Wrestling has lost a lot of its visibility among wrestling fans since the beginning of the year. In my mind it's no longer the number 2 company in the United States, and it's not really as big an alternative anymore. If this is the case, then someone would need to step up and becoming the true alternative to the WWE's megalith. And New Japan Pro Wrestling is fast on its way to becoming it. Granted, NJPW isn't there yet. However, They have many of the stones in place to build themselves to be. They've had their stars appear on shows for Ring of Honor. Sure, that isn't exactly headlining Wrestlemania, but it is a big start. Having Jeff Jarrett help bring over their biggest event of the year, WrestleKingdom, to American pay per view with Jim Ross doing English commentary was another huge step. If you are going to show off your wares, then show them the absolute best show you produce. Jim Ross, along with Matt Striker, explained the context of every match, the importance of every title, and the magnitude of the event for English speaking fans in a way that made for a great introduction to the product. Soon after NJPW made a big step in getting a weekly show on the AXS cable network. Although this wasn't a first run show like a Monday night RAW, it was a very well produced show highlighting the biggest matches of New Japan in the last few years. Host Mauro Ranallo and Josh Barnett blew me away with their commentary of these matches. They made the matches not only seem important, but they brought a level of credibility to the action more than anyone in the WWE or Impact have done in decades. The show did so well in its first season it has already been picked up for a second (That premieres at the end of May) But the biggest thing going for NJPW that makes it a big alternative to the WWE is that it too has an online archive that rivals the WWE Network. This past January when #CancelWWEnetwork was trending on Twitter after the disaster that was their Royal Rumble event, who was the first to step up and tell people to spend their money on their service? NJPW.  NJPW World obviously isn't for everyone, but there is a sizable portion of wrestling fans that are increasingly cynical and resentful of what the WWE has done in their corporate atmosphere. With American exposure, a weekly TV show to gives a informed spotlight to the action and its stars, and a 24/7 archive streaming service that isn't beaten over your head every two seconds, what's left for NJPW to become a true alternative? A first run show, even if it is on a slight delay, would probably ideal, but that might be a while off. Having AXS carry entire  NJPW special events might be closer to achievable.   AXS does very well with its live MMA coverage and bringing that to NJPW wouldn't be that much of a transition. Also, carrying events on tape delay would bring in a sizable audience as well. Some well-placed ads on the USA network during RAW or other similar types of programming and you have a bigger audience than what currently follows the product.  Unlike Impact or Ring of Honor, NJPW has the funds and the influence to make things like this happen. So with NJPW, the sky's the limit as to what else they can bring to American shores. They already have a great foundation, now is the time to build on it and give the WWE something to think about. WWE has grown complacent since there is no real threat to them here. Vince, and by extension the WWE, thrive better in a competitive atmosphere.  Any kind of challenge a big player like NJPW can bring would make the WWE stand up, take attention, and bring out the best in them as well. The past has shown us that when the WWE is on their game, the entire industry benefits. And right now, it sure could use it. NJPW brought back popularity of pro wrestling in Japan a decade ago, it's time for them to bring it to new heights in the U.S. and give the WWE a run for its money.  
New Japan Pro Wrestling photo
NJPW's presence in the U.S. grows
Being a fan of professional wrestling in the United States, you've got choices. Of course there is the biggest game in town in Vince McMahon's WWE, who have dominated the market practically  unopposed since 2001. Behind ...

React photo

What do American teens think of J-Pop?

Not quite what I expected
Jan 14
// Hiroko Yamamura
I'm a bit of a Youtube React Channel junky. I especially love the show when they cover stuff that's near and dear to my heart, so you can be sure my interest piqued when the word "J-Pop" showed up on my playlist. I won't spo...
Tekken 7 photo
Tekken 7

Meet Shaheen, Tekken's first Saudi character

Say "Salam!"
Jan 06
// Josh Tolentino
Bandai Namco are revving up the hype machine for Tekken 7, and with their latest character reveal, we finally get our first glimpse at what came of that call for feedback Chief Developer Katsuhiro Harada made in August. ...
Host clubs photo
Host clubs

Japan's King of Hosts pulls in $30,000 a month

Vice Japan looks inside the world of host clubs
Apr 23
// Brad Rice
Ever wonder what it's like being on top of the world as a host? Naoki of "Club Fantasy" is just that: selected as Japan's #1 host in 2011, Naoki has it all. He's currently managing the host club, acting as frontman for music...
Culture photo

Yamada Heiando shows what it takes to make lacquerware

Crafters to the Imperial Family show their immense skill
Mar 01
// Brad Rice
Japanese lacquerware producer Yamada Heiando opened their doors to filmmakers to give an idea of the delicate and perfect work that goes into making their products. Every piece they do is gorgeous and stunning -- fit for the...
Yakuza sites close photo
Yakuza sites close

Sega closes all official non-Japanese Yakuza sites

But...but Sega ;__;
Oct 03
// Chris Walden
The chances of Yakuza 5 making it outside of Japan with an official translation are already pretty slim, but news that Sega has closed all of its non-Japanese Yakuza sub-websites feels like the final nail in the coffin. Unles...
Omatsuri photo

JX: Photos from the Omatsuri performance

Celebrating culture
Aug 27
// Josh Totman
As I touched upon in my Day Two impressions post, the Omatsuri performance was something that you shouldn't have missed it you were there at Japan Expo. It's not often that you get to see these types of festival celebrations ...
Japan Expo photo
Japan Expo

JX: Day two impressions

More and better
Aug 25
// Josh Totman
Saturdays at a convention are always the best day of the convention. You have the whole day to do everything that you want without a time limit of any sort. I mean, there is no need to go to work or school tomorrow, right? Wi...
Japan Expo photo
Japan Expo

JX: Day one impressions

It's roomy
Aug 24
// Josh Totman
It's been a busy day for us here on day one of Japan Expo USA. Tim and myself were running all over the place trying to see what this convention has in store for us. You know, in between guest interviews and such. We were abl...
Taiko drumming photo
Taiko drumming

Sit back and enjoy some traditional Taiko drumming

Move to the beat!
Aug 15
// Hiroko Yamamura
Last week the awesome people over at Akihabara News shared some lovely video of a Japanese summer festival that was in full swing. They also captured some lovely traditional Taiko drumming that was on display, much to the cr...
Pikachu fireworks photo
Pikachu fireworks

Pikachu is ready to explode!

Pokemon getting fired up
Aug 07
// Hiroko Yamamura
Oh man, as if yesterday's video didn't make me long for Japan's summer festivals enough, now a new video has made me even more home sick. There must be some Pokemon working the Itabashi Fireworks festival this year, because ...
Tokyo matsuri photo
Tokyo matsuri

It's summer matsuri time in Tokyo

Ahh summer
Aug 06
// Hiroko Yamamura
The weather hot, and the party spirit is in the air! This can only mean it's summer matsuri time in Japan! Today we take a small glimpse at a festival in Tokyo, as our friends over at Akihabara News have captured. If this vi...
Mmm, curry. photo
Mmm, curry.

Curry Refills at Coco Ichibanya in Japan

Investigation time!
May 14
// Eric Koziol
After reading a recent article about getting free refills of curry sauce, I had my doubts. I completely trusted in the news, do not get me wrong, but it seemed too good to be true. There had to be some catch. I mean, seriously, we are talking about getting free curry sauce here. Join me as head into my local Coco Ichibanya in rural Japan and try to ask for a second helping of their fine sauce.

Bento Books looking to kickstart Black Wave translation

A thriller set in the aftermath of 2011's earthquake.
Mar 04
// Elliot Gay
It's incredible to me how many great Japanese novels go without translation. There's a host of quality content over here that gets overlooked time and time again. Enter Bento Books' new translation/publishing Kickstarter for ...

Eating at a sushi shop properly

There are so many rules!
Feb 28
// Josh Totman
So you made it to Japan and want to go get some sushi from it's birthplace. That's great, but did you know that there are some very strict rules on how you eat and enjoy sushi? The Japanese have this down to a science, right ...

Thrown back for being too small! Tsukiji Market to close

Old shop is all fished out
Dec 11
// Josh Totman
It is a sad day for me my friends. My beloved Tsukiji Market will be closing its doors by the end of 2013. This is so sad for me because I have yet to have the chance to visit said market. Which you know, if you have been fol...

Hyper Japan 2012 Christmas: Final Impressions

Nov 27 // Chris Walden
I arrived at Earls Court at about 1:30pm on the Friday to sort out my fancy pants press pass and the like, and very kindly they said that I could enter the exhibition hall way before opening. Being the fine English gentleman that I am (nah, my brother was with me) I decided to queue with the regular ticket holders. By this time the queue had already wrapped around the building, and while the size and number of people was a little crazy, it didn't take that long at all to get inside the event. When inside, we were greeted by a giant inflatable Chopper and the Namco Bandai demo area, which we decided to check out before the queues got too crazy.  Available to play were copies of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (Wii U), Tank! Tank! Tank! (Wii U), Ni no Kuni (PS3) and Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 (PS3). While I messed about with all of them, it was Tekken Tag Tournament 2 that really stuck out as the one to remember. First of all, both myself and my brother were able to play versus, one of us using the Wii U GamePad while the other used the Pro Controller. The Pro Controller feels very nice, and it seems to take the best features from the 360 (in the controllers form and layout) and the PS3 (thumbsticks in-line and general feel). It got a thumbs up from my brother, who likes to play/shout at Call of Duty, so that's got to mean something, right? The GamePad was also very surprising in how easy it was to use and how light it was, but even though I'd played Tank! Tank! Tank! before Hyper Japan, it was Tekken Tag Tournament 2 that really sold me on the screen. The action looked great on the controller, and while it changed to a special move selection during fights, it showed that the controller wouldn't look like ass when playing away from the TV. Not really news at this point with the Wii U firmly in the grips of North Americans, but with the console a week or more away for Europeans, it was reassuring to see.  Ni no Kuni and Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 looked great, but I didn't manage to play enough of those to really be able to offer fair judgement on how I feel about them. While I'd love to tell you more about Tank! Tank! Tank!, there's really nothing I can say. It seems that all four consoles showcasing this game were broken in one way or another when I showed up (both at the beginning and end of the day), which is pretty unfortunate. I did play a little of it at the London MCM Expo earlier in the year, and walked away unimpressed with the dodgy frame rates. Still, the game was far from out, so I'd have liked to see if it had changed since then. Seems it wasn't meant to be! Of course, with an impending Wii U release, it wasn't just Namco Bandai showing off their offerings for the new console. Nintendo were there in full force, showing off both Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U. I was also very glad to see that Nintendo-published Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge was available to play, which I had assumed wouldn't be because the game isn't a European launch title. I was certainly glad to see that they were showing it off, despite it looking a little out of place in what looked like a child-friendly, helper-filled display. That they didn't decide against showing it is good news for the future of the console, especially when they are trying to secure that 'hardcore' market they so crave.  While I stood at the stall for a fair amount time checking out both Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U, I was kind of put off actually playing them myself. Why is this? Because each and every Wii U console had it's own dedicated employee to shout things like "Wow!", "Amazing!" and "Grab the coins!". I don't need your help to decide if I'm enjoying the game, Nintendo! Nonetheless, the games certainly looked great in long-awaited HD graphics, and I'd be lying if I wasn't just a little excited to see what the console can do in the future.  Anyway, this isn't just about the Wii U! Hyper Japan had arranged a quality selection of shows and speakers to grace their stage at various points throughout the day, and they certainly didn't disappoint. What I had considered to be the main event of the Friday (at least because it managed to get my chef brother to attend!) was the giant tuna carving. It showed off the culinary prowess of Tomokazu Matsuya, a chef at the popular So Restaurant in London. The fish was a huge 45kg yellowfin tuna, and while it's size was incredibly impressive, know that it was most definitely from a sustainable source. For almost an hour, both Matsuya and his assistant wrestled with carving this monster, so much so that there was even a short break in the middle to show off some tourism videos! However, the chef and his arsenal of knives managed to quarter the monster, with his sweaty brow and lack of breath serving as evidence of his victory. He then proceeded to carve the fish into much smaller chunks for sashimi, which were then distributed amongst the crowd with small cups of sake. The tuna was incredibly fresh and tasted delicious because of it, and the sake was nice and smooth with a slight kick to it. Due to the size of the fish, the remaining meat was sent over to their stall, which could either be bought in portions to take away or served with noodles.  Following a short break, samurai sword artists KAMUI came on to the stage. Using katanas and other weird and wonderful weaponry as props, they acted out different scenes and fights to various songs from the film Kill Bill. Tetsuro Shimaguchi, the leader of the troop, had previously worked as an actor and choreographer in that very film, so it wasn't much of a surprise to see them perform to the arguably fantastic soundtrack. While the performance started and ended with serious routines and stories, there was also a slapstick act in the middle of it all. To see the troop who are quite clearly very proud to be continuing the traditional samurai spirit enjoy themselves with some light-hearted comedy was quite the spectacle! Before the end of their stage time, the announcer came on to introduce someone else. It seems the news hadn't spread as much as I'd assumed it would, as the crowd seemed shocked to see none other than Tomoyasu Hotei himself appear with KAMUI.  It turns out that Tomoyasu Hotei has relocated to London, which explains where his upcoming one-off gig has come from! He spoke a little about why he was there, promoted his concert, then performed his very famous Battle Without Honor or Humanity, also from Kill Bill. It was pretty funny seeing the people in the crowds faces as it dawned on them that yes, they had indeed heard music from the Japanese master of rock. His appearance was brief, but it certainly showed us a glimpse of what was to come in December, and I honestly cannot wait. This is certainly something that the London MCM Expo hasn't been able to do. Hyper Japan certainly has plenty of connections with those working for Japanese tourism, so big names like Tomoyasu can be lured in for things like this.  Unfortunately, as I only attended the Friday and for a set period of time, there were plenty of events I didn't manage to see. However, there was quite the variety of stage events going on throughout the whole weekend. Japanese company ITK showed up to show off some interesting robotics, including a hand that followed the gestures its controller was making. There were also some other Japanese music performances spread across the three days, including Tomoca, NINJAMAN JAPAN and THE MICRO HEAD 4'NS. Failing that, there was the World Cosplay Summit and the European Cosplay Gathering preliminaries on the Saturday. Something for everyone, I'm sure! For those who enjoy a more hands-on experience, Hyper Japan offered a Sushi Workshop, hosted by the SOZAI cooking school. While these courses are organised by So Restaurant, it was Atsuko Ikeda who was helping out and teaching budding cooks. She has been running her own courses on Japanese cuisine for quite some time already, so it was great to see someone with proven experience passing on her knowledge. The sushi workshops came in two different flavours, as you could choose to try your hand at making makizushi (sushi rolls), or have a go at nigirizushi (rice blocks with fish/meat on top). The prices were pretty steep at £20 for a 30-minute session, but they did come with £10 worth of goodies to take away. Included in the package was sushi rice, wasabi, soy sauce and rice vinegar, perfect for having another go at home. It's kind of a shame that they didn't come with nori and a rolling mat for those who tried out the makizushi, but never mind! If you prefer a good drink, the Sake Experience would certainly have been up your alley. There were 23 different varieties to try out and buy (if you liked it that much), from aged to pasteurized, full-bodied to sparkling. Who would have thought there was so many different types? Alas, I'd already had some sake from the tuna event and a Kirin beer (which hilariously caused an organiser to ID both me and my brother, presumably because he thought I was getting kids drunk), so I didn't fancy putting another £20 towards more alcohol. Still, it looked like a great experience for those that are interested, and there were even sake brewers and sommeliers around to have a chat with.  Of course, there's plenty to look around and enjoy outside of the large events and attractions. Stalls selling all sorts of anime and video game merchandise are ever present, so be sure to bring that extra bit of cash to snag a figure or two! There were also stands selling clothes (both regular t-shirts and Japanese themed attire), retro video games and art, so there's going to be a little something for everyone. Don't expect there to be mazes of stalls, as there are far less than you would see at the London MCM Expo. Still, the stalls that were there had some top notch stuff, and we've already seen that the event is still growing. As a result of this, the show is significantly quieter than you may be used to at conventions. Definitely a positive, as it's certainly handy being able to speak to other people!  The folk from Tofu Cute were showing off a lot of their imported goodies, which includes various different kinds of sweets and cute apparel. I took a layer off my tongue trying some sour gumdrops, and their large selection of flavoured Ramune was also pretty great! It's hard to find anyone selling anything other than lemonade Ramune, so be sure to give them a visit if you're feeling adventurous! While the event wasn't really bustling with bodies, be warned that their stall certainly was! Bear that in mind if you plan to load your bag up with sugary treats.  One of my favourite stalls this time around had a whole bunch of retro and import games to play. They had set up Taiko Drum Master for two-players, which was pretty fun to play. Unfortunately it was the NTSC version of the game rather than the Japanese import, so we got to hear terrible covers of Britney Spears' Toxic and ABC by the Jackson 5. Fortunately, there were some great songs on there as well, such as the Dragon Spirit medley and Katamari on the Rocks. The fact that the drums were a little temperamental put a bit of a damper on the experience, as I couldn't show off my Taiko prowess and felt like I was smashing the drum a little too hard to try and get blue notes to register! Other games on show included DrumMania, Ghosts'n Goblins and 8-player Bomberman! With the events lasting until 8pm on both the Friday and Saturday, you'll likely be around long enough to feel the pangs of hunger. Something that the London MCM Expo doesn't do so well is finding many, if any, stalls to sell food. Sure, there are a few places outside the main hall with crazy prices, but you'd want to travel into London for something well-priced and worth eating. Hyper Japan smashes this issue out of the park, as the place is filled with great food stands. Better yet, the food is all Japanese, so you can enjoy some takoyaki (battered and fried octopus balls), dorayaki (pancake with filling) or okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes with all sorts of fillings) without having to scour London for the odd place that actually sells them. Udon, ramen and onigiri are also available if you want to stick to some less adventurous foods, but hey, you need to know what these things are like! You certainly have my word that the takoyaki are darn amazing! As you might expect, an event like Hyper Japan draws in plenty of cosplayers. I mean, you can't expect an event with some link to Japan to not do so, right? Of course, the aforementioned cosplay events on-stage are going to be a big draw, but there's plenty of casual cosplay and photo opportunities going on across all three days. It's certainly not the cosplay hotspot for the UK, but if you just want to dress up and have a good time, you'll definitely be able to.  So, how many of your precious British pounds do you have to give up to enter the event? Well, this event cost a reasonable £12 for a single day if you order in advance, or £15 at the door. You can also pay £24 for all three days if you want to check out all of the stage events, and kids that are 10 and under are allowed in for free. Hyper Japan has blossomed nicely since my original visit, and they are putting a great deal of effort into securing some fantastic events. I walked away very impressed, and I'm eagerly awaiting details of the next one!  In my opinion, if Hyper Japan gets some popular, big-name guests in the near future, it'll come to rival the London MCM Expo. Here is my suggestion. Go and get Shinya Arino, then get Norio Wakamoto. Set up a grand stage, with all the gold trimmings and plenty of pyrotechnics, then have them both duke it out in a game of Street Fighter. Your venue won't nearly be big enough to contain the crowd, mark my words! [A big thanks to @AQua_ng for lending me some of his photos! If you attended Hyper Japan 2012 Christmas and wouldn't mind sharing your photos with us, send them to [email protected] We might just run a cosplay special if we get enough!]
It's good!
While there are many different conventions around the UK that focus on Japan and the cool things the Japanese are responsible for, there are two that clearly overshadow the rest. The first, and biggest, is the London MCM Expo...


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