JQ Magazine: San Francisco Hosts Fourth Annual J-Pop Summit Festival

The 2012 J-Pop Summit Festival will be held in San Francisco’s Japantown August 25-26. (NEW PEOPLE, 2011)

By Lindsay Martell (Saitama-ken, 1995-1997) for JQ magazine. Lindsay is a freelance writer and a voice-over actor in Oakland, California. Visit her website here.

Whether you have a penchant for hunky Lelouch Lamperouge (the hunky antihero of the anime series Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion) or a serious hankering for Lolita fashion, the pop-y, edgy, dynamic stuff you love is busting at the seams with this year’s J-Pop Summit Festival in San Francisco’s Japantown August 25-26.

With its campy theme of “Cyberpop Overload,” the second annual gathering is a Japanophile’s dream come true—noshing on chicken teriyaki bento or pork katsu curry from a JapaCurry food truck as you bop along to the scores of bands busting out tunes—this mecca of all things related to Japanese pop culture has something for everyone: fashion, film, anime, video games, technology and thumping music. And for JET alums who are feeling particularly natsukashii? Kite-kudasai!

Personally, I can’t wait. Not a day goes by when I don’t miss Japan. I haven’t lived there since the mid-’90s, when I was an ALT in Saitama, and yet, I can still feel the humid summer air, tatami beneath my feet, and the salty perfection of roasted senbei crunching in my mouth. At that time, I couldn’t get enough of the hypnotic pop scene. Most of it was a mere 1.5 hours away in Shibuya—a deliriously crazed hub of all things punk and pop.

And while I am now thousands of miles away from that edgy scene, J-Pop is an easy trip—a place brimming with kawaii-ness around every corner. More than 55,000 people got their pop on at the festival in 2011, and even more are expected to join in the fun this year.

“The J-Pop Summit offers activities and programming that reflects trends that are hip in Japan now…from music, film, fashion, gaming and general pop culture.” says Erik Jansen, publicist for NEW PEOPLE, the cutting edge Japanese pop culture venue in San Francisco that mounts the festival every year. “For expats from Japan and those who have travelled extensively there, the J-Pop Summit is a hip reminder of home.”

As the hub of the event, PEOPLE houses a state-of-the-art theater (home of the San Francisco Film Society), Blue Bottle Coffee, a smattering of gourmet Japanese and non-Japanese eateries, funky punk clothing stores such as h. Naoto and Baby, the Stars Shine Bright.

Since opening in 2009, NEW PEOPLE has become a unique must-see attraction of San Francisco’s cultural landscape. The 20,000 square foot contemporary venue features the latest examples Japanese popular culture expressed though film, art, fashion, and a variety of specialty boutiques and ongoing monthly events. Those who have wistful memories of nibbling takoyaki and sipping milk tea as they stroll by the pachinko parlors will feel as if they’ve been transported back to their time in Japan, helped by a vibe that is pure pop-ified fun.

The festival’s centerpiece this year is the U.S. premiere of the Evangelion Pop-Up Museum, a two-day only special exhibit that will be a destination spot for fans of the insanely popular Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series. The museum will offer an extensive collection of original concept and production art, drawings and killer artifacts from the famed Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone and Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance film series. Patrons will also be able to browse Evangelion books, toys and collectables in anticipation for the upcoming release of the third film in the series, Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, which hits theaters in Japan this fall.

According to Jansen, for those who can’t quite keep up with the ever-evolving Japanese scene, J-Pop is the perfect place to dive right in. “We’re striving to bring pure multiple aspects of current J-Pop culture and also expand your horizons to new genres you may not yet know much about,” he says.

It’s a lot to soak in. In addition to the fashion shows, theatrical film premieres, live art performances, and celebrity appearances inside NEW PEOPLE’s door, you’ll also be treated to mini-concerts at the adjacent Peace Plaza and tons of goodies to browse for in open air displays that will flank both sides of Post Street.

“The J-Pop Summit Festival has become an important part of the cultural fabric of San Francisco and is a unique celebration of Japanese pop culture in all its colorful forms,” says Seiji Horibuchi, the president/CEO of NEW PEOPLE, Inc. and chairman of the J-Pop Summit festival committee.

So in the words of my former students…ikimasho!

For more on this year’s J-Pop Summit Festival, visit www.J-Pop.com/2012.