Late last month, I went to Hyper Japan, a three-day Japanese culture extravaganza at Earls Court that promised a street fashion show, a cosplay contest, lectures on Japanese fashion, sushi, sake, gadgets and loads of mind-blowingly hot Japanese babes.
Sacha Baron-Cohen was sat at the entrance, developing his new persona, The Panda Of Rock, which basically consists of him playing guitar maniacally and screeching something that sounded kind of Japanese, but was probably just borderline racist yelping. For anyone worried that Sacha's genius might be in decline, fear not, Mr. Emo J-Pop is already way funnier than Bruno.
There were loads of mature, bearded photo-bloggers outside, using their phones to snap pictures of the little girls in short skirts. I would have expected digital SLRs from such experienced-looking dudes, but I guess convenience and being inconspicuous just sometimes straight-up beats quality, right?
I think I offended these girls by asking who'd they'd come dressed up as, because I forgot that Lolitas actually dress like this every single day of their lives. Trying to quash the bad vibes, I asked the girl second from the right whether conventions were a good place to pick up potential lovers. She has a boyfriend, but apparently got propositioned last year by a middle-aged Japanese couple. So, if you're looking for awkward free love, good news: it's still alive and well in the hearts of pervy-looking Asian couples trawling vast, sterile arenas in West London.
This guy was cosplaying as a style-blind Spanish tiger in head-to-toe Jeremy Scott, which speaks volumes for Jeremy Scott.
And these guys looked great, but refused to speak to me as soon as I told them I worked for VICE :'-(
Loads of people were cosplaying, unless all the people we took photos of just dress like this normally? Which would be fucking amazing. Most were cosplaying as different variations of Hatsune Miku, which wasn't all that surprising.
What was definitely surprising is that Iron Man is a total dick. Every time I tried taking his photo he'd turn away, play all hard to get, then shoot me evil looks. Fair enough, I guess that's just how bitter you become if Hollywood decides to shun you and use that tool Robert Downey Jr. instead.
I was feeling a little dejected because of Iron Man's refusal to acknowledge me, but I soon bumped into the cast of Naruto and the guy throwing the non-ironic "horns" made everything completely OK again.
It turns out the "lecture on Japanese street fashion", was actually a PowerPoint presentation about British nerds 30 years ago, which was fine by me, because the talk was followed by a Lolita competition.
I'm not really sure what the criteria for winning were, besides maybe squealing loads, playing with your outfit and jumping up and down. I think I was just too distracted by the judge – the girl on the right – who I'm instantly going to marry as soon as she quits dressing like a paedophile's wet dream. Ugh, sorry, that's so gross. Sorry, everyone.
Next up was the cosplay contest, which made me feel really weird. Everyone competing had clearly put a lot of time and effort into their costumes and they all looked amazing, but I have a feeling most of them didn't realise they were going to have to do a performance in character, onstage, in front of about 800 people. That last girl's shy, terrified face nearly made me empathy-cry.
There's only so many times you can grit your teeth in second-hand embarrassment before you pass out, so the photographer and I left the cosplay contest, drank as many free sake and plum wine tasters as we could, then stumbled on this mega-babe, who was offering vaguely traditional Japanese makeovers.
I asked to hold a sword so that my ratty facial hair would seem less out of place with the woman's kimono I was wearing, but was given a neon green wig and a rainbow-feathered fan instead, which, in retrospect, actually looks pretty fucking killer. Am I right?
FYI: I'll definitely be going back next year, for anyone who feels like accompanying me and tracking down the sexual gratification and superhero acknowledgment that I was denied this time round.