China’s No.1 ‘blind box’ toy maker, POP MART, has opened their first store in Europe. The grand opening was on 20th January attracting many people to queue in front of the store to be among the first visitors.
POP MART sells ‘blind boxes’ of collectable toy and figurines in the most different themes and characters, including well known characters, such as Harry Potter or Hello Kitty.
At the moment SKULLPANDA, PUCKY, DIMOO, and HIRONO are the most popular series.
An extremely limited edition – 100 pieces (!) – of ‘SKULLPANDA Dark Maid’ was available in the store on the day of the opening for collectors. Upon purchasing over £30 in the store, customers received a token to buy ‘SKULLPANDA Dark Maid’ on a first come first served basis.
The extremely limited edition ‘SKULLPANDA Dark Maid’
Located on 80 Shaftesbury Avenue, POP MART’s first permanent European store is a small, 395 sq ft unit, but they hope this store will influence other European countries to open way to further expansion.
Artists to Design
HYPERPANDA Series at POP MART
Photo: Urban Adventurer
POP MART has become an easily identifiable brand by collaborating a huge number of artists, designers, and even other brands. They have successfully collaborated with world-famous designers, such as Kenny Wong and Pucky as well as top-level global brands, such as Disney, Universal Studios and Sanrio.
Their main target audience is the young (18-35) – at the moment, mostly women.
‘Blind box’ culture has been getting more and more accepted in other countries outside of Asia. Currently their products are being sold in 52 countries and they are also available on the most popular e-commerce platforms, such as Amazon and AliBaba.
Now POP MART has arrived in London and their huge collection of designer toy series are available for fans for up for grabs.
Naruto, Dragon Ball, One Piece, Attack on Titan…do these titles make your heart pump faster? If so, read on.
If you are a fun of Japanese culture, a manga addict, nuts about animes and cosplay (like me), HYPER JAPAN Festival is a must have. The three days festival is being held twice every year: in the Summer in July and in the Winter in November.
The next HYPER JAPAN Festival is just around the corner. Yay!
Never heard of HYPER JAPAN Festival Before? Want to learn more?
So, what is HYPER JAPAN? What can you do and see there? Where is it?
HYPER JAPAN is the biggest Japanese cultural and food festival in the UK. It’s held at Olympia, London. This year it’s from 12-14 July.
To give you a better idea what to expect when going there, let me share my experiences from last Summer.
When you’re heading to HYPER JAPAN Festival, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the world of manga and anime at the tube stations and bus stops around Olympia. You can easily bump into Son Goku from Dragon Ball, Luffy from One Piece or Mikasa from Attack on Titan. (It’s funny to see how average people react to the cosplayers).
On Arrival to HYPER JAPAN
On my arrival I found myself in the middle of a massive queue. Luckily, the queue was pretty fast, and the staff that checked our tickets and gave our wristbands were very organised, so I was in the building within ten minutes.
From Kawaii Sweets to Maid Café
On the ground floor there were endless variety of Japanese kimonos, cosplay costumes and accessories, kawaii plushies, traditional Japanese tableware, Japanese sweets and much more.
Right there I couldn’t resist to buy a mystery sweet bag because I hadn’t been able to decide what sweet I should try so I decided to try random things. I highly recommend the mystery sweet bag if you cannot decide what to try. It contains a wide variety of sweets and even a canned drink, and you can choose from different sizes of bags.
On the ground floor there were fabulous exhibitions of traditional Japanese arts. Visitors also had a chance to learn origami and try traditional Japanese instruments such as Shamisen (three-stringed instrument, looks a bit similar to guitar).
Still on the ground floor, there was the Maid Café. Maid Café is a special type of café where the waiting staff not just serve the guests’ food and drink, but also entertain them: perform short performances, sing or play board games with the guests.
Next to Maid Café, there was the video game section, where you could try the latest video games – even one that hadn’t been released yet. Wow!
Try, Try, Try Don’t Be Shy
The whole event was very interactive: you could try literary everything before purchasing. I tasted sparkling sake (Kampai! – a Japanese word for ‘cheers’) at a stall, traditional sweets at another and tried a kimono at a third, and so on.
What’s on the Stage?
On the upper floor there was a big stage and a tatami (tatami is a type of mat used as flooring material). On the stage I watched high quality performances – starting every half an hour – from invited Japanese artists such as calligraphers, famous Japanese bands like Mutant Monster. Many of the performances were interactive, for example I learnt the basics of traditional Japanese dance.
After the performances I went to the Meet & Greet area to meet the performers personally, shake hands and get autographs.
On the tatami I could see various martial art performances such as Aikido and Kempo.
Japanese Food to Try
All the food stands were on the upper floor, offering wagyu (Japanese food speciality with beef), sushi, rice balls, ramen (Japanese soup), bubble tea, beers from different parts of Japan and endless variations of cute and unique Japanese sweets such as bubble wrap filled with matcha (green tea) flavoured ice cream topped with sweet bean sauce. Sounds a bit bizarre? Don’t worry, its taste was not as funny as it sounds. Hey, be adventurous! Don’t be afraid of trying something you have never had. Japanese food and sweets are very tasty. (wink)
Ken Watanabe – the Star of the Godzilla Films
Every year visitors are being surprised with a special guest or performance. Last year we had the honour to greet Ken Watanabe (Godzilla, The Last Samurai, Memoire of a Geisha, Inception), the famous Oscar nominated Japanese actor on the stage. He was in London because of his play: The King and I at London Palladium that Summer.
The whole event was full of fun and new experiences. HYPER JAPAN is a three-day event and believe me, one day is not enough. You will want to go back. Fist time when I went, I bought a one-day ticket. The following year I purchased a three-day ticket. For me, it’s now a tradition to visit HYPEN JAPAN every year. So, see you there. Wearing cosplay costume is highly recommended.
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