Last year's HYPER JAPAN was probably the most ambitious debut for an anime and manga event the UK has ever seen.  Focusing strongly on fashion, media and food from the land of the rising sun, HYPER JAPAN succeeded in attracting some big name companies and guests from Japan and creating a truly unique slice of the far east in London.  This weekend the event returns, on paper bigger and better than last time, the event is running for three days once again from Friday 22nd July to Sunday 24th July with a change of venue from the ageing Truman Brewery in Brick Lane to Kensington's Olympia Two.  We've caught up with HYPER JAPAN committee member Emily Bastian for the inside view of last year's event and what we can expect from this one.

   "Last year’s event was a great success – we received over 14,000 visitors and had some fantastic feedback" says Emily.  "This year we’ve moved to a bigger venue, and have aimed to expand some areas of our show, such as introducing the Eat-Japan Sushi Awards, a greater number and variety of exhibitors, and a Japanese culture area".  Indeed the programme of events and exhibitors seems more broad than last time, including several UK-based retailers with a Japanese focus alongside those from Japan, whilst expanding the activity and food areas.  "The aim is to keep our core audience of anime and fashion fans happy, while introducing activities which will appeal to those with a more general interest in Japanese culture" Emily explains, "We have also tried to respond to visitors’ requests – for example, more seating was requested, so this year we’ve introduced the Maid Planet Café and Japanese Food Court to give visitors a place to relax."  It's not just the food and cultural areas that have expanded either, there's also a bit more to the media side of the event.  "One part of the show which has definitely expanded is the video games area" Emily confirms.  "This year we’re looking forward to welcoming Bandai-Namco, Konami,

Square Enix Products and of course Nintendo – who will be attending with their Nintendo Unleashed tour, showcasing their latest releases."

Of course it's hard to talk about Japan without thinking about the terrible tragedy the country has suffered from the Tohoku Earthquake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear disaster earlier this year.  Organising any event with a heavy reliance on Japanese business is going to be difficult after such a disaster, and HYPER JAPAN has had its fair share of challenges.  "The consequences for businesses in Japan have been severe, even in those areas physically unaffected by the earthquake." Emily concedes.  "The knock- on effect has meant that some of our planning for this year’s event has been a little delayed, but it’s made us even more determined to show our support for Japan."  Showing their support is what HYPER JAPAN is doing in a big way, taking some mightily impressive steps to give something back to the country that inspired it.  "This year, HYPER JAPAN has decided to donate one third of all sponsorship and 10% of ticket sales to the Tohoku Earthquake Relief Fund, as well as introducing a charity area at the event itself."  Emily states.  "We want this year’s event to focus on generating interest in Japanese businesses during this difficult time, and showing support for the individuals affected, too." 

It's great to see an event like HYPER JAPAN use its profile to raise both money and awareness for the ongoing effects of  the disaster.  In the West the focus shifted to the Fukushima nuclear crisis so rapidly that the lasting effects of the tsunami became less widely reported.  The sheer scale of the devastation is shocking and even four months on people are still living in temporary shelters with minimal facilities in the worst affected areas.  Emily confirms that awareness is also a big aim of the event "I would like to mention the Yet I Still DARE TO HOPE exhibition which will be on display at HYPER JAPAN. The

exhibition is a collection of photographs from Shichigami, a town in Miyagi prefecture which was badly affected by the disaster." she comments.  "The photos are accompanied by notes written by the local residents who experienced the earthquake, bringing home the human element of the disaster.  We hope that visitors will come and view the exhibition, and show their support for Japan."

Having experienced the earthquake first-hand back in March this exhibition is something that we at Animetion strongly support, and we are extremely impressed that a high-profile event like HYPER JAPAN is willing to bring it to a wide audience.  The event appears to be making a conscious effort to cover as many aspects of Japan as it possibly can, and alongside the retailers, exhibitions and cultural events there is once again room for some impressive guests.  With last year's event bringing the four voice actresses from the - at the time - brand new anime series Milky Holmes to the UK, this year has another major Japanese guest with serious anime credentials on the cards...