What’s the first thing that comes to mind whenever Japan is mentioned? You’d be forgiven for giving answers like anime, manga, cosplay, J-pop and the like, but Japan has so much more cultural and economic treasures to offer. Although travelling to Japan is certainly the best way it experience it all, Hallo Hallo Alliance offered a solution that’s much closer to home: the Cool Japan Festival 2015.
A weekend of nothing but the most authentic facets of Japanese lifestyle and culture was on full display for every Filipino to relish and experience.
A jampacked experience
The event was held at the TriNoma Activity Center in Quezon City. Although it wasn’t the worst venue to hold such an event, it also wasn’t the most spacious one. Because of the multitude of stalls that had to fit inside the small floor area of the activity center, people had to line up and wait to be allowed inside in batches.
A representative for the organizers explained to us that they considered holding the event in other venues like SMX Convention Center – Manila and Glorietta Activity Center, but they were already booked for other events. It could also be related to the fact that the second branch of Cool Japan Shop will open in TriNoma sometime this month.
Once people managed to get inside though, they couldn’t help but be amazed at the booths and demos sprawled at every corner of the venue. There’s the food stalls that offer the best of Japanese food like takoyaki, onokomiyaki, shaved ice laced with lots of flavor, bubble tea, and even flavored popcorn straight from Japan. Top-caliber sushi chefs were also on hand to personally demonstrate the delicate art of making authentic sushi nigiri. Trendy Filipinas got to try out the various Japanese makeup and beauty products from BCL Japan.
teamLab brought their interactive art installations to Manila, like the teamLab Aquarium where kids got to see their sea creature creations magically come to life, and teamLab Camera which brought real-time image editing to a whole new level not seen in your average smartphone. You may check out the pictures from teamLab Aquarium and teamLab Camera on the event’s Facebook page.
Of course, the centerpiece of the whole event is the Cool Japan Shop, albeit a smaller pop-up version of it. Small as it may be though, it still managed to carry a wide assortment of Japanese products. Among the items that tickled our fancy include the drinking glass made of clear silicone that looks very much like a regular drinking glass, a kitchen item that lets you continuously rinse rice with running water, and a mechanical pencil that protects the lead from breaking even under pressure.
As engaging as the booths were, the real fun began during the stage performances. Taiko drum band Tokoro Taiko made the audience’s hearts jump quite literally with their high-energy percussion skills. Their performance wasn’t so much about the music itself (although it was pretty entertaining on its own) as it is about the performers’ movements as they beat the taiko drums. They are so in-sync with each other that it becomes a perfect harmony of song and dance which was quite mesmerizing to watch.
Next came the performances by local idol group Kawaii5 as they promoted the J-drama Amachan airing on TV5. We got to admit, Kawaii5‘s stage presence certainly exceeded our expectations. While their song-and-dance skills are indeed up to par, it was their audience engagement and flair for comedic banter that took us by surprise. Looks like their manager Anna Feliciano has definitely worked her magic with Kawaii5.
Akishibu Project, an up and coming girl group which signifies the fusion of elements Tokyo’s leading fashion and entertainment districts, Akihabara and Shibuya, wowed the crowd with their performance alongside famous Filipino cosplayer Alodia Gosiengfiao, who donned different costumes but cosplayed as Miku Hatsune from the popular Vocaloid platform.
But the most anticipated of the event was the performance of AKB 48 Team 8, and arguably, their whirlwind Manila visit not only highlighted the fans’ clamor for the J-pop powerhouse to perform in the country but also made memories as well.
AKB48 Team 8 is a unit of the J-Pop super group sponsored by car manufacturer Toyota, which has its members coming from each of the different prefectures of Japan. Team 8 is also the youngest branch of the super group, having been formed only about a year and a half ago.
Team 8‘s day started with a guesting on the ABS-CBN noontime variety show It’s Showtime, where they performed one of the group’s hits Aitakatta to the national audience. A mere three hours later, they went on to perform for the first time in Manila for the boisterous but disciplined crowd at the CJF stage, the first of four performances that weekend.
The performance of AKB48 Team 8 was undeniably well-awaited that a sizeable number of fans came over to the TriNoma just to witness them, including some who flew from different countries including Singapore and Japan. They were clearly not disappointed by the medley of songs the group performed along with their synchronized dance moves.
In the media interview that followed their performance, the group said that the cheers of the fans made the event alive, adding that their tour in the country would help in promoting the essence of Japanese culture in the country through the Cool Japan Festival. “We would like to be a start for the people to be interested in Japan,” said Shiori Sato, one of the members of Team 8.
The group also said that they have a different concept from the main group as they come and see the fans in different parts of the world, essentially making them the global ambassadors for AKB48. Whether members of the main group will perform alongside them in the future remains to be seen.
Making it a fixture
The Chief Operating Officer of the Hallo Hallo Alliance, Maxim Beatty, said he was amazed at the event and that the performers had an amazing connection with the audience.
He also hinted at the potential of a second run next year and perhaps even making it an annual event in a bigger venue. “That’s a possibility, I mean this is the first one,” Beatty said. “Obviously there is a demand out there, a lot of people are interested in [Cool Japan Festival].”
With the long lines of people who wanted to experience what Cool Japan Festival has to offer, be it from the performances to the unique wares of the Cool Japan Shop, it is no secret that Filipinos wanted to experience the Land of the Rising Sun themselves.
And Cool Japan Festival gave them that experience, even for just a weekend.
Anime Pilipinas is an Official Media Partner of Cool Japan Festival 2015. We would like to thank Hallo Hallo Alliance for inviting us to the event.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect the views of Anime Pilipinas, its members, partners, and colleagues. If you have comments or reactions, please email at [email protected].