This year marks the 9th annual J-Pop Summit held in San Francisco, CA. The Young Folks were there to cover the weekend for the first time and just to note: this was our first year hearing about the J-POP Summit. It was definitely an experience. For one, it was surprisingly the calmest day in San Francisco you can possibly imagine (We only attended Sunday’s festivities) and not as chaotic as you’d think!
Without a doubt, Japanese culture has had a HUGE impact in everyone’s life but most especially San Francisco. With locations such as Japantown and ramen or sushi spots popping up literally up almost once a month, there’s no better time than now to get yourself familiar with the culture. And, not going to lie, we were a little hesitant heading to the venue with no real idea of what we were going to get ourselves into. But luckily, right off the back, the atmosphere was inviting and so welcoming to anyone who entered through the doors.
Just as you enter the Fort Mason venue doors, you’re welcome with their bright signage created by Hiroyuki-Mitsume Takahashi who is known to create “a variety of work using images, space and performance without being bound by a single design or medium.” Each side was covered with some type of booth and right at the beginning marks the sneak peek to some of the event’s performers such as TOKYO GEGEGAY and Babyraids Japan who were hosting their meet & greets with their much excited fans.
The pre-entrance introduces you to the “travel” section of the event with no real appeal to us… Until we were convinced to send a postcard to ourselves which would be sent from Japan! How could we pass that up? Wrote ourselves a quick message from the past to remind our future selves.
Also in this area was the Travel Mini-Stage Program featuring performances by pop group LinQ; Miko’s Dance, a professional Miko (shrine maiden) performing a traditional Shinto dance; and intense games of rock, papers, scissors so audience members could win prizes. Look, that game isn’t as easy as it looks. Needless to say, we went home empty-handed.
Inch a little forward and you’re greeted with swinging balls. As odd as that sounds, it was pretty cool to witness. Imagine absolutely huge hamster balls x5 which plays music each time it hits something. Kids were in awe with this art piece so that didn’t really stop them from accidentally hitting innocent passersby. Inch a bit further and you’re in the “Innovation” portion of the event.
This part was filled with VR such as NTT Data – “VR Baseball Coaching System” which was originally developed so that professional athletes could rehearse before real games to be ready to make the best performances; Panasonic – Hugpathy: A human body communication technology which realizes data communication through body only by touch, handshakes, and hugs; Topology Eyewear – custom-fit eyewear fits perfectly to never pinch, squeeze, or slip; and more.
Within the “Arts” section, the Red Tea Ceremony by Kem Hamazaki (Known in Osaka as “The Red Man”) took place. It was both interesting and confusing at the same time. You’re literally watching two people have tea with one another but say absolutely nothing to one another. Anyone could have stepped right up and participated. It was a pass for us though.
Lastly, the food and main stage area was located at the end of the festival layout. With the Sake Summit on one side and Shimadaya/KIKKOMAN tables on the other, this would be the spot where you’d want to be to enjoy a good time. Throughout the day, the main stage had some type of entertainment whether it be the Q&A with May’n or the Misaki Iwasa x TOPOLOGY design competition, there was something for you to experience while you unwind with a good sake in one hand and udon in the other. One bummer? Not enough seats to accommodate so you had to be prepared to squat on the ground.
From the outside, the second annual Ramen Summit took place featuring top-rated ramen restaurants from around the Bay Area as well as Seattle! Even with the 79 degree weather, it’d be foolish to pass up some good ramen. Shout out to Nojo Ramen Tavern who was our choice of the day. With $8/bowl, it was a steal but I just couldn’t manage eating two bowls. Our snack of choice later in the day? California Roll Sushi sandwich thanks to Shige Sushi.
Overall, the event itself was enjoyable for just about anyone and everyone. It may seem intimidating knowing one, you don’t know any Japanese and two, you know nothing about the culture. But, this event opened our eyes to explore our boundaries a bit more and be open to new things. In fact, we’re currently listening to BAND-MAID right now (main headliner of Sunday night) and even though we don’t understand what’s being said, we’re not hating it.
Final takeaway message: Be open to new things and try stuff outside your comfort zone. You just never know what it might open up for you.