I will admit that when I first heard of this event, it really sounded like a mixture of previous events thrown together in hopes that something good will come out of it. On one end you have what seems to be travel and lifestyle oriented direction and at the other, card games, popular cosplay guests and even a professional wrestler. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to head down to check out the event.
The first sight to welcome visitors is a Torri Gate with a walkway of information panels of the 47 prefectures of Japan. On each you will find a summary of the prefecture and some highlights like what food to look out for. With a tag line such as “Play, Eat and Get a selection from 47 prefectures”, it was a good start. Having arrived at around lunch time, I headed to the “WA-Shoik Gourmet Festa” zone to check out the Japanese food selection to “Eat”.
From Keisuke Ramen to Deli’s Kitchen and Japan Rail Cafe, there was quite a selection to either get a snack or something heavier for a meal. Payment was done cashless via preloaded credits into a rfid device that I hope isn’t hackable (sorry job hazzard) and everything went smoothly or me as I got myself a nice box set and soda from Japan Rail Cafe. The couple in front of me while queuing up at the top up booth weren’t so fortunate as they found out that the Keisuke Ramen booth only accepted cash and they were rejected trying to pay with their credits. Something for the organisers to take note I guess.
With “Eat” out of the way, it was time to find out what Japan Park Singapore has in terms of “Play” and it was over to the “Chara Expo Mini” zone. The zone definitely got “Play” right although majority of it was targeted at Bushiroad card games. With a large area dedicated to players to deck it out against each other with their customised decks and stores for players who need to pick up a booster pack or two, it was “Chara Expo Mini” alright as Chara Expo was also heavily focused on the card games. Of course there was also a mobile game section with a leaderboard and a demo area but that is about it. No wrestling ring to New Japan Pro-Wrestling matches here but that’s just me.
Next up is to check out the “Get” where I assumed was more of a travel/lifestyle/exposure/informative combination attempt at promoting Japan. From travel booths (yes you can actually sign up for tours to Japan although I wonder if the “The Big Travel Fair” below at the West Atrium would have offered better deals) to booths by Japan Railway East and West and even a Takasaki booth selling confectionery, there is actually a nice variety of things to go through. Some of the booths had activities for visitors such as a travel photography talk at the Hokkaido booth and a Gold Leaf workshop at the Ishikawa booth.
One booth on my “must go” list whenever they are at events is the NHK World booth and they didn’t disappoint especially with the presence of Domo-Kun. In line with the theme of the event, the booth had bento making sharing session and a quiz about Japan where 3 contestants and Domo-Kun will compete to see who can answer the most questions right. Visitors can also find out more about Japan through its multimedia stations which fits nicely into the “Lifestyle & Technology” zone.
In the center of the event venue is the the Omakase Stage which saw both traditional and popular culture acts and guest take to the stage throughout both days. From traditional dance and music performances to having talk shows by cosplayers, a professional wrestler and appearances by anime voice actresses, the stage area was mostly crowded with interested visitors and those looking for a place to rest their tired feet. The chair were comfortable so why not.
Sadly there was no New Japan Pro-Wrestling matches even though its parent company Bushiroad was present at Japan Park Singapore. As consolation for this NJPW fan was the stage segment with Jushin Thunder Liger who was his usual entertaining self. From sharing how his life goal switched from being a farmer to a professional wrestler to even how he loves durians. There was also a audience game where 3 winners walked away with an autographed tee-shirt signed on the spot.
One zone that seemed a little out of place was the “Kid’s Sport” zone which had lesser visitors compared to the rest. Maybe its the adult to kids ratio even though kids 12 and below enter for free. The area had physical test stations, some similar to the dreaded NAFA test like standing broad jump and sit and reach. Not too sure what this zone has linked to Japan other than Albirex Niigata FC who administered the stations although the kids there enjoyed the mini football match station the most. Maybe they should just have more games and less test stations next round.
Coming back to the analogy of the rojak, Japan Park Singapore is really a rojak of a popular culture, travel and lifestyle. Thankfully the rojak taste acceptable with its clear direction of everything Japan and hopefully the experience of running an event with such a high target will benefit the organisers for the next round. To be fair I wouldn’t place Japan Park Singapore on my blacklist since there is still some coherency among the zones rather than putting things that has totally no relation together as a safety net to draw visitors. Hopefully we will get to see a better Japan Park Singapore next year!
by Kenneth Wong
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