Rice Cakes, Manga, Anime and Cosplay at HyperJapan

After sliding out of bed at 6am this morning, jumping in the shower, having shave, and throwing on clothes prepared last night, I knocked on Miss 17’s bedroom door for the first time. Over the course of the next half an hour I knocked on her door ten more times. With minutes ticking down until we absolutely had to leave the house in order to catch the train to London, she appeared – dressed, coat on, phone in her pocket, earbuds in her ears.

We caught the 7am train towards London, and sat rubbing sleep from our eyes, and talking about Stranger Things for much of the journey. Eventually the robotic train announcer informed us that Paddington Station was approaching, where the train would terminate. I started grinning – imaging the train being terminated, Dalek style.

After half an hour sitting on an almost deserted underground train – it never fails to surprise me how different the commuting experience is between weekends and weekdays – we climbed into the frosty morning air of Central London, and set off on-foot for the “Tobacco Docks” – and “HyperJapan”.

If you are a long-time reader of my blog, you may remember our visit to HyperJapan some months ago. It’s an exhibition held in London celebrating everything to do with Japanese culture – from food, to fashion, art, animation, performance art, and more. There is a live stage where J-Pop bands challenge the structural integrity of the building while ripping through guitar shredding songs at a hundred miles an hour, and a food hall filled with people trying out Japanese food – often for the first time. Like me.

The rice cakes looked amazing. Miniature models of perfection in small boxes, flavoured with this or that, filled with things we had never heard of before. I bought several, and we snuck of to try them. Miss 17 bit into the first one, and didn’t know what to make of it. I laughed, and popped the rest into my mouth – always willing to try new things. She almost spat hers out in laughter at my immediate description.

“It’s like bouncy snot!? But it tastes of chocolate?!”

It turns out rice cakes are often like that – the texture is just something we are not used to at all. The only thing Miss 17 didn’t like at all was a rice cake filled with red beans. I finished it for her.

Miss 17 was supposed to have been dressed in a full cosplay outfit – as a character from the popular Manga and Anime series “Attack on Titan”. To be honest, I was amazed we arrived at HyperJapan at all – she went down with a horrific cold yesterday, and only made it out of the house this morning after giving her the maximum dose of nurofen.

The cosplayers were probably the highlight of the day. Actually, the live stage acts were also pretty amazing – but the cosplayers were outstanding. I can’t imagine how many tens of hours go into the creation of some of the costumes. One girl in particular was stunning – I didn’t know the character she dressed as, but the attention to detail in her costume, it’s accessories, her makeup, and hair was unbelievable.

I asked a lot of people if we could take their photo – Miss 17 was too bashful – they all agreed with huge smiles. You might think it would get annoying if you are stopped every few seconds for another photo, or another selfie with somebody, but no – they all seem to live for it – sharing the characters they are fans of with anybody who takes an interest.

Talking of being a “fan”, while wandering around we happened upon an exhibition of original artwork from the artist behind the Manga and Anime series “Fairy Tale” – Miss 17 immediately dragged me in, and we spent some time looking at original inked pages, and their coloured counterparts. A wall of messages from fans drew us in, and a Japanese lady offered us a pen. 17 didn’t understand at first, but then realised what was going on. I thought she might write her name on the wall, and wondered what was taking her so long. Nope. She was drawing the cat from the series. A professional photographer working for the exhibition noticed too, and ran over – leaning over her shoulder with their lens to record her, and what she was drawing. I’m wondering when and where the photos will appear – I might get in touch with them.

We also watched skilled calligraphers writing people’s names in traditional lettering styles, looked at Kimono’s we would have to sell the car to afford, and gazed in wonder at a variety of art exhibitions.

A little while later – after throwing a chicken katsu curry in our mouth, and standing in a sea of thousands at the main stage for an hour, we decided enough was enough, bought an album of a J-Pop metal band that will undoubtedly destroy the bluetooth speaker in 17’s room, and made our way back to the station. Despite the cocktail of drugs coursing through 17’s body, she was beginning to flag. The moment we sat on the train back at Paddington Station, she fell fast asleep, and slept most of the way home.

A long day. A noisy day. An expensive day. But a good day, and a day neither of us will forget for some time.


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