Hyper Japan 2012 at Earls Court
Hyper Japan, hosted for the third consecutive year at Earls Court, claims to be “the biggest J-culture event in the UK”, but should stop trying to be something it’s clearly not.
Boasting such a reputation inevitably leads to high expectations, but the fair utterly fails to live up to them. As soon as you walk into the Exhibition Centre, filled with the hope to be immersed in a world of samurai and geisha, you realise that the fair is not all it’s cracked up to be; what you actually get is a messy mix of small stands aiming to represent Japan and its culture, but only revealing a mere glimpse of it.
Very little exposure was given to Japan’s authentic cultural heritage: what was on offer was heavily filtered through a modern perspective, and adapted to the tastes of the locals in order to appeal to a wider public, but found wanting in terms of addressing the history that made the Land of the Rising Sun what it is today.
The Kamui sword artists’ performance, for example, was spectacular, yet seemed rather hollow; the sword-fighting seemed genuine, but the whole act became a show desperate to impress the public by drawing upon the huge success derived from Kill Bill, using the signature theme heard in the film as an obvious musical background, whereas fighting in silence or accompanied by traditional music would have given a more appropriate feel to the scenario.
Many of the stalls peddled various souvenirs akin to those sold to gullible tourists with no real understanding about the culture of their destination. Take the daruma dolls, for instance. Those sold at Hyper Japan had both eyes, whilst the traditional daruma only have one eye, as the other must be drawn on by the owner at an when a wish has been fulfilled in their lives. Those who have no idea what their purpose is may only buy them because of their visual appeal, instead of having any interest for their cultural significance.
All in all, it is definitely not worth spending £15 on an exhibition which boils down to a mere clutter of mementos. Japanese culture still has the ability to fascinate and bewilder, yet Hyper Japan 2012 failed to scratch the surface of Japan’s cultural appeal, instead resorting to stereotyping and selling inauthentic keepsakes.
If you really want a genuine experience of Japan, you’d be better off taking a course, or even visiting the country for a first-hand experience.
Photo: Courtesy of Hyper Japan
For further information about Hyper Japan 2012 visit the exhibition’s website here.