Ah Hyper Japan, where do I start? It all seemed so epic. And then I went there and it wasn’t that epic at all (fear their publicity machine, it is incredibly effective when it comes to advertising HJ as THE Japan event to be at). Very disappointing or as popular culture’s speech dictates: I am disappoint. Frankly I feel I should have waited for London MCM Expo instead, which has both a JapanEX section AND a Steampunk one. Mind you, in all fairness I arrived pretty late on the Saturday and didn’t get to stay quite as long as I had hoped, so I had to draw on quick impressions. I do think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had managed to see more of it but sadly public transport (I had to go up from Belgium) and the ridiculously slow hotel check in made me be later than planned (although in my defence, the press info page was partly to blame for my tardiness, don’t list West Brompton as the station to be again guys, just let people walk to the right entrance from Earls Court instead, it’s way easier and not to mention far quicker).
I set out to discover in how far something as popular as steampunk had found a way into Japanese pop culture events and in how far proper victoriental would be represented in a country that is quite well known for hosting good sized steampunk events, not to forget the fact that they have a very decent amount of resident steampunks and dieselpunks in the UK. Let me start by saying that I didn’t see anything victoriental (unless you want to state that the Asian steampunk gentleman counts, then he was doing all that representing on his own), some of the girls dressed in classic lolita came quite close but that was it. I counted a grand total of 3, myself and aforementioned gentleman included, steampunks.
That aside, the Cyber Candy stand did sell cans of Aether Cola, which looked very pretty packaging wise. Actually food & drink seemed to be the main focus of the convention to be honest. It was a very friendly atmosphere and all that jazz, but I had expected a far bigger convention and far more diversity (so more than bikkit & kawaii). With the increasing popularity of steampunk in Japan I wonder whether over time the genre will become more present at this kind of event, but right now it’s still a total underdog. Even the typical Japanese sister styles as far as the aesthetic side of things go, Mori-kei and Dolly-kei, were sadly absent. I would dare to go as far as state that there were more Japanese dressed in those styles staying in the same hotel as my husband and I than there were at the convention. But of course, this is just the focus of me trying to figure out just how far steampunk’s popularity has reached into J-popular culture, and none of this is to do with Hyper Japan as a convention.
They do put up a lot of events, but the crowds around them tend to make them hard to see due to the low visibility of the stage areas sadly. The event variety (J-fashion show, panel, performances, cosplay competition) is really nice though. If you want to see something there, be there on time to get a good spot!
On the upside, it is a very open minded and friendly convention, so if you’re a steampunk (or dieselpunk) into Japanese culture and you’ve got some time to spare and feel like exploring a lot of Japanese food and drink and maybe pick up some kawaii items along the way, this is probably your thing. You can easily dress up for the occasion without getting grief any grief what so ever over it. Just don’t expect a very wide diversity of other things. I had hoped to find at least some more underground stuff and there was the grand total of one stand that at least slightly accommodated that and that was a little shop carrying J-rock. Even some very obscure things at more than reasonable prices, sadly their offer was, just like that of most shops present, limited.
If you want more, I’d give MCM a go and see what their steampunk and Japanese culture sections are all about. I hear good things about that convention (then again, I heard good things about Hyper Japan too and look how that turned out, it’s a pretty mixed bag at best).