Positive vibes and smiles are all around this weekend at the J-Pop Summit in San Francisco.
With the energetic beat of Japanese pop music blasting in the background, a festive crowd is enjoying the best in fashion, technology, food and drink. The festival runs through today.
Unlike last year when a weekend crowd of 125,000 people made moving around difficult and lines excruciatingly long, on Saturday afternoon there was plenty of room to spread your wings.
That’s exactly what the Summit itself did this year–spread its wings.
In a sign of J-pop’s growing popularity, the Summit has relocated for the first time in seven years out of San Francisco’s Japantown.
Last year’s huge crowds made the decision to move to Fort Mason and Union Square an easy one.
“It was massive. I don’t think anyone was really prepared for that,” said Eric Jansen of the J-Pop Summit about last year’s huge crowds.
“We had people waiting four hours for ramen and that was impressive on the one hand, but from a logistic stand point we knew at that point that we had really outgrown the Japantown neighborhood. We just couldn’t accommodate anymore people after last year and the amount of strain it put in terms of the city.”
The main venue is the Fort Mason Center which features a large entertainment stage where 15 bands are performing live. I had a chance to catch a performance from Faint Star, a young duet that had everyone from teens to senior citizens clapping in rhythm to their bubble gum beat.
There’s also a technology pavilion, fashion, style, and pop art along with travel information for anyone with the urge to go to Japan.
The related Sake Summit is being held at Union Square through today. 13 sake makers are sampling their rice wine. $30 gets you a two hour tasting.
The Japan Film Festival is over at the New People Cinema and runs through next weekend. More than two dozen films are being presented over the next week ranging from anime to Japanese dramas.
J-Pop is often compared to K-Pop, but there are huge differences, according to Jansen whose mother is Japanese.
“They’re kind of parallel story lines, but they kind of branch off in different directions. K-pop really started out in the LA club scene for a number of years and it kind of had its own fan base. There’s a lot of Korean expats that live in the Southland. The scene started to grow big over a number of years, other d-jays would get hip to that stuff. So it grew very organically.
“Whereas K-pop is focused exclusively on the music., I think J-pop is a lot more varied,” continued Jansen. “You have the fashion. You have film, music. art and a lot of that stuff. It attracts a different level. Anime, if I dare say, is really more popular than K-pop ever will be, but that’s just one facet. J-pop music still has a way to go, but I think those artists, are coming up fast & furious.”
One of the cool things you’ll find at the technology pavilion is a wearable display from a start up called Vufine. It can connect to any Android and IOS device and allows you to see the displays completely hands free. It’s much more unobtrusive than the much maligned Google Glass. A Kickstarter campaign raised $240,000, more than 400 percent of its goal. The Vufine retails for $169.
Over at the fashion side of the exhibit hall, I saw adorable looking children’s shoes with all kinds of cute designs along with fashions made by many of J-Pop’s entertainers.
Throughout the hall, you’ll see several cosplayers roaming around. I particularly enjoyed the Cosplay Masquerade where nearly a dozen cosplayers competed in a fun and friendly competition. I had an opportunity to talk to several of the contestants. Check out this brief interview with one of the few non-Asian contestants, cosplayer Skyler from Davis, CA.
Look for more interviews with cosplayers, along with more technology and fashion featured at the J-Pop Summit over the next several days on AsAmNews.
Tickets start at #25 for adults and $15 for kids.
For more information on the J-Pop Summit, you can visit the Summit’s website.