Hyper Japan outdid themselves this time, with unique performances and exciting acts appearing on the stage throughout the three-day event. Here are my personal highlights:
Although they’re billed as a four-piece band, they have a fifth member, Daishi, who was also on guitar. Daishi is not listed on their website, but does appear on their CD.
I would never have called myself a fan of visual kei, but I do like glam rock, punk and some metal, which is where visual kei has its roots. However, one glimpse of these ever-so pretty boys and I have to confess I did fall in love a little bit. Their shiny, sparkly costumes, make-up, and hair caught my attention, and their act was brilliant. Not only did they sing, they performed. In-between the music, there were fight scenes with excellently choreographed moves, making their show incredibly exciting, and amusing too. They also seemed like genuinely nice guys, and I really hope they come back to perform in the UK again soon.
Here’s their title song ‘NINJAMAN JAPAN’, with a fight scene at the beginning:
And here’s another fight:
As well as the five musicians in the band they had two dancers which reminded me of chondara – clown-like dancers you usually see in Eisa dances in Okinawa. You can see them particularly well in this video:
KAMUI featuring a guest appearance from Tomoyasu Hotei
Japanese samurai sword artists KAMUI performed live in London for the first time at Hyper Japan. Although most people had probably not heard of KAMUI, their work will be familiar to many. Founder and leader of the group Tetsuro Shimaguchi featured in sword fight scenes in Quentin Tarantino’s film Kill Bill: Volume 1, both as an actor and choreographer. As a group, they have performed all over the world, and are greatly admired in Japan. Founded by Tetsuro Shimaguchi, Hiroaki Kawaguchi, and Juri Manase in 1998, KAMUI is a sword performance troop with a unique style incorporating detailed sword moves and techniques. Although they are influenced by contemporary culture in their work, KAMUI hope to maintain a traditional samurai warrior spirit and keep ancient Japanese swordsmanship alive in the modern world.
I was surprised to see that they were not only incredibly skillful and serious, but also added humour into some of their routines. Watching KAMUI perform was like watching a live-action martial arts movie, and I would love it if they came to London again. I could imagine them going down very well at Sadler’s Wells.
The only video I managed to get of them was a funny one (below). It’s great how much can be communicated through gestures and facial expressions.
Keeping with the Kill Bill connection, on the Friday of Hyper Japan KAMUI were joined by rock guitar legend Tomoyasu Hotei, famous for his song ‘Battle Without Honor or Humanity’ which was featured in Kill Bill. Seeing them perform on stage together was incredible, but for me the most unforgettable part was watching them rehearse before the event opened on the Friday. I may not have been able to take photos of that, but I’ll never forget it!
KAMUI were, without a doubt, the hardest working performers at Hyper Japan. Not only did they perform multiple times on stage, they also gave workshops to eager visitors. Their enthusiasm and energy never faltered – they were fabulous.
For more information about KAMUI please visit their website or Facebook page, and for Tomoyasu Hotei please visit his website or Facebook page. To see more of KAMUI in action, check out their YouTube channel.
Wa-Pop by Tomoca
Compared to the other acts I’ve mentioned above, I could take or leave Tomoca to be honest. But her act was interesting and her music was very pleasant to listen to, if a little cheesy. Beautifully presented, Tomoca performed in a kimono, often dancing with a folding fan, while her band wore a mix of traditional and modern clothes, and played both traditional Japanese instruments (such as the koto and shamisen) and modern instruments such as the electric guitar.
‘Wa-Pop’ is Tomoca’s term for the fusion of modern Western instruments with traditional Japanese instruments, aiming to create and east meets west sound. Speaking about her music, Tomoca said “I hope to bring harmony, peace and unity to the world”. I’m not sure about that, but it was a nice act to watch and her music seemed popular with the crowd.
For more information about Tomoca, please visit her website: tomoca.net.
Stay tuned for more news from Hyper Japan coming soon!