MOMENTS after the train doors open I’m confronted by a mass of people patiently waiting to access Hyper Japan 2011, the UK’s biggest J-Culture event. Not put off by the hordes, I make my way past dozens and dozens of people dressed as favourite animé characters, or in a deliberately affected and Japanese style; I couldn’t describe it to you per se, but you’d know it if you saw it. Gathering more and more dirty looks with every footstep forward, the event’s future attendees are told to expect a long wait as capacity has been reached and they have been forced to operate a one in one out system. With excuse mes and pardon mes, I make it inside the door and collect my pass, the space is a heaving hive; cosplayers, fetishised merchandise, movie posters, strange gadgets and contraptions, sushi stands, Kawaii creatures and characters, imported dresses, comic books, floor to ceiling. I gather a map and make my way to my destination – Yet I Still Dare To Dream, a photo exhibition aiming to raise continued awareness for the parts of Japan hugely devastated by the Tsunami that hit early this year on March 11th.
His reason and desire for curating this show, was to cast a light on people’s hopes and dreams months after, to remind us that once the media and public have moved onto their next story, things don’t go back to normal and people have to continue rebuilding their lives, making the best of the circumstance they find themselves in.
Studying the information displayed as somewhat of a refresher or introduction before the actual display, I was taken aback by the magnitude of the disaster; the affected area compared to almost the entire east coast of England. Washed up artifacts lay beneath the information, which detail the events unfolding and the amount of lives lost, giving: a child’s toys, notebook, broken ornaments, things you might find about your home, devoid of their original context yet given new meaning when picked from the vast and sprawling debris that was one the idyllic coastal town of Shichigahama. Witnessing the before and after photographs of the devastation I’m sure everyone is familiar with, I saw a peaceful provinces laid to waste, it was hard to believe I was looking at the same locations, the mangled contortions of mother nature’s unbiased makeover, new cruel and wicked shapes, twisted metal cargo containers ripped in two, cars under cars under ships, uprooted trees, submerged geography, destroyed communities. Almost teary-eyed, I exclaimed slow drawn out expletives under my breath.
Speaking with the photo exhibition organizer and son of the shores of Shichigahama, Angus Miyaji, he told me his reason and desire for curating this show, was to cast a light on people’s hopes and dreams months after, to remind us that once the media and public have moved onto their next story, things don’t go back to normal and people have to continue rebuilding their lives, making the best of the circumstance they find themselves in. His words are pertinent, resonating with me hours later as I sit writing this piece, pondering the previous days news of the Oslo bombing and shootings.
As mentioned previously, hope is the key concept. The photos are not intended to stir sadness in those who lay eyes upon them, but rather a sense of optimism, giving their side of the tragic and notorious world story as well as their own personal hopes. Everyday people of simple means – a carpenter, a petrol station worker, a postman, a lady expecting her first child, a mother of two, a four generation family and a Canadian lady working in the town – strive in the face of adversity to get the derailed carriage back on the tracks and the show back on the road. Never has the word normal or the concept of normalcy sounded so positive or been used so romantically, aspirationally, inspirationally or matter of factly. With each photo and brief introduction, light is shed upon the great changes that these people have undergone and the highly surreal events they have had to endure; normal lives torn apart by an abnormal, unforeseen, unprecedented force. Standing in front of the exhibition, considering what I had read and the images I had seen, letting the information slowly resonate, I was felt positive about what I had learnt, that the people documented were now looking forward and aspiring to live better lives having being dealt misfortune.
Extending my best wishes, thank yous, all the bests and handshakes, I make my way amongst the witch hunters, backwards Dracula, gothic lolita’s, babydolls, the plainly dressed, the supportive parents, the event employees, the child stuffing his face with sushi, the people waiting in line for the bathrooms and I was made to understand that everyone is fighting a battle of some kind or another, big and small, (this is not to make light of the magnitude of the Tsunami’s catastrophic iron fist) and that everyone at some point will fall but what is most crucial to take away from this and what was demonstrated on these walls is that it is the way in which one gets back up that is what is most important.
HYPER JAPAN 2011 was held on Friday 22 July, Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 July 2011 at Olympia Two in London.
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