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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Japanese cartoon characters and samurai warriors mingled with girls in Victorian-style petticoats in east London at the weekend, as they soaked up Japanese popular culture at a special event.
"Hyper Japan," held on east London's trendy Brick Lane, showcased modern Japanese culture including street fashion, Japanese animation known as "anime," comics and food.
The event, which attracted over 5,500 visitors on Saturday, was aimed at making modern Japan accessible to a young and trend-conscious audience in London.
"Today there is a lot of influence in Japan from British culture, such as Vivienne Westwood's fashion, and young people in the UK know a lot about Japanese culture from the Internet," the event's organizer Kazuhiro Marumo told Reuters.
"Both countries seem to have a mutual interest and respect for each other's cultures," he added.
British schoolgirl Rebecca Flint or "Beckii Cruel" leapt to stardom in Japan in 2008 after she posted videos of herself dancing to anime pop songs on YouTube.
One of her videos was uploaded to the Japanese streaming website Nico Nico Douga (www.nicovideo.jp), where she became popular among Japanese fans.
"Hyper Japan" was also streamed on the website and attracted more than 25,000 viewers on Friday.
The venue was filled with young people dressed in so-called "Lolita" style, a fashion subculture from Japan that is influenced by clothing from the Victorian or Rococo eras, sometimes with a gothic or punk twist.
The basic style consists of a blouse, petticoat, bloomers, bell-shaped skirt and knee-high socks.
"My dress is based on the Lolita style, with lots of lace. It is based on Edwardian (fashions). It takes those styles and makes it more cute and fun," said 23-year old Sere from London.
A competition at the event judged the creativity and originality of the outfits and the winners won a five-day trip to Japan.
"We're delighted to have won as we've always wanted to go to Tokyo," said winners Ellie Conlon and Scarlett Hayler-King.
"We've been making our costumes for three weeks, but we only saw what the others had made last night -- everything else has been done over web cams," said
As a sign of how seriously Japan takes its modern trends, its ministry of foreign affairs appointed model Misako Aoki in 2009 as an "Ambassador of Cute" to travel the world to promote Japan's pop culture.
"For me, Lolita fashion is the ultimate in 'kawaii' (cute) fashion. The shapes, designs and colors all work to make the girls wearing it look super cute and charming," Aoki said.
Editing by Steve Addison