By Preston Hatfield (Yamanashi-ken, 2009-10) for JQ magazine. Preston received a BA in English literature with an emphasis in creative writing and a minor in Japanese at the University of California, Davis. After spending an amazing year on JET in Yamanashi, he spent a year writing and interning with book publishing companies in New York. He currently lives in Marin County, where he continues to cover local Japan-related stories for JQ, and teaches English as a second language at an international school in San Francisco.
Mark your calendars for the weekend of July 27 when NEW PEOPLE and the San Francisco Japantown Merchants Association kick off the fifth annual J-POP Summit. With a special thematic focus on the kawaii phenomenon, this extravaganza promises to be bigger and better than the last one (not unlike the stages of an RPG boss fight).
“Each year we strive to present a comprehensive cross-section of the latest in hot J-POP trends across fashion, film, art, music, anime/manga and pop culture that are happening in Japan NOW!” says event publicist Erik Jansen, who has been promoting the event since the beginning.
The weekend at NEW PEOPLE and Union Square promises a spectacular showcase of live music. In addition to performances by iconic pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and LoVendoR, the new band featuring former Morning Musume star Reina Tanaka, you’ll also have the chance to hear Kylee, an American-born teenage singer whose stock has been rising steadily in the pop music scene. In case you’re worried if all that cutesy music is going to turn your brain to pudding, rest assured that a punk rock show by the Akabane Vulgars and Daichi’s beat boxing and vocal mix mastery will sculpt it back to its normal Jell-O consistency.
And if music isn’t your thing? “We always receive a wide variety of attendees, from ages 7 to 75 and from across all walks of life,” Jansen promises, and this year there will also be an array of other events, including a Harajuku-inspired fashion show, a Pop Gourmet food festival, a sake tasting hosted by the Japanese Consul General of San Francisco, a rebooted edition of the Real Escape Game, the Vocaloid Dance Contest and a full lineup of special guests including guest of honor Katsuya Terada, one of Japan’s greatest illustrators, who will be doing freehand drawings and signing autographs to promote his new art book at the Kinokuniya bookstore.
But the true meat and potatoes of this year’s summit is the first-ever Japan Film Festival of San Francisco, which will take place from July 27 through August 4 at NEW PEOPLE Cinema. In its inaugural year, the festival will debut 16 highly anticipated films featuring iconic franchises, acclaimed directors, and Japan’s biggest film stars. For anime buffs, the lineup includes NARUTO The Movie: The Lost Tower and Evangelion 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo, and fans of live action can look forward to director Miwa Nishikawa’s Dreams for Sale and Shinsuke Sato’s (Gantz) new adaptation of Library Wars.
It is worth mentioning that both the Naruto and Evangelion movies will be showing in America for the first time at this festival. The story of an adolescent ninja’s training and his many adventures, Naruto began in the ’90s as a manga and later launched an incredibly popular anime series and movie franchise, enjoying success domestically and abroad. It is currently one of the most-watched anime series in Japan and is widely recognized by young American viewers as well.
Not to be outdone, the high-concept, award-winning sci-fi series Evangelion boasts some of the most impressive box office records in Japanese film history. Set in an apocalyptic world in which humans pilot war machines to defend what is left of the planet from monstrous beings called Angels, Evangelion has earned wide acclaim from audiences and critics alike for rich thematic explorations of religion, philosophy, and the workings of the human mind.
But whichever movie you plan to see or whatever events you’re looking forward to, remember that this is a community event as well as a cultural one. Come prepared to lose yourself in the experience, and meet some people who share your love (or curiosity, as the case may be) of Japan. In a crowd like this, it’s hard to stay a lone wolf.
Jansen concurs: “Last year we welcomed than 63,000 visitors, and with the new addition in Union Square this year, we definitely expect to exceed that amount. We look forward to seeing everyone there!”
For more information on this year’s festival, visit www.j-pop.com/2013.