Jul 12

JQ Magazine: J-POP Summit Festival Returns to San Francisco with Music, Fashion, Film

The annual J-POP Summit Festival returns to San Francisco July 19-20, featuring special performances from May'n and Tokyo Girls' Style. (Dave Golden)

The annual J-POP Summit Festival returns to San Francisco July 19-20, featuring special performances from May’n and Tokyo Girls’ Style. (Dave Golden)


By Sam Frank (Wakayama-ken, 2004-06) for JQ magazine. Sam is the webmaster at the Jewish Community Federation in San Francisco.

Japan is a country that likes to borrow from another culture and make it their own. Punk rock, Spaghetti Westerns, and baseball are just a few things Japan has adopted over the years, and in 2009, the J-POP Summit Festival in San Francisco added a bona fide community event to that list. Similar to Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Outside Lands, the J-POP Summit Festival is an annual street fair held in the City by the Bay that celebrates Japanese popular culture. By introducing the latest in Japanese music, film, art, fashion, gaming, anime, food, as well as niche subcultures, the festival has become a prominent platform to showcase the latest trends and creative innovations from Japan.

POP is our traditionis the theme this year’s J-POP Summit Festival, which will be held in San Francisco’s historic Japantown district the weekend of July 19-20. Last year’s event welcomed more than 80,000 attendees, making it one of the largest Japanese festivals in the United States. While Japan is participating in America’s summer festival tradition, it has found a way to distinguish itself from the pack. Bringing together food, fashion, entertainment, and film promises to give the people of San Francisco a lasting impression of Japanese culture.

“Each year we strive to present a compelling mix of the hottest entertainment trends happening in Japan right now, and the J-POP Summit has become a wonderful and unique composite of pop and rock music, edgy kawaii-inspired fashion, modern graphic art, and film and anime content,” says Seiji Horibuchi, president/CEO of NEW PEOPLE, Inc. and chairman of the J-POP Summit Festival. “This year’s event promises to be another important milestone for the evolution of J-pop culture and its fan base in the U.S.”

Free live concert sets by some of Japan’s hottest pop and rock acts will take place throughout both days on the Pagoda Main Stage in Japantown’s Peace Plaza as well as at a special open-air live concert, “J-POP Live at Union Square” downtown the evening of July 19. Performances include the U.S. debut of Japan’s massively popular teen idol vocal group, Tokyo Girls’ Style, and a special concert at Slim’s July 20 of Japanese pop/rock/anime star May’n (pronounced “Main”), known as the singing voice of Diva of the Galaxy Sheryl Nome from the blockbuster anime film Macross Frontier, as well as many other popular anime series.

Other must-see artists performing at this year’s J-POP Summit Festival include DAICHI, The 23-year-old Japanese human beat-box, who taught himself his amazing vocal skill beginning at the young age of 10, and Una, an Okinawa-born former Harajuku shop assistant who represents a new type of model capable of expressing not only kawaii style but also showcasing other cool aspects of Harajuku culture.

If music isn’t your thing, then fear not, kohai, Japanese fashion is also a major part of this year’s J-POP Summit Festival. This year’s festival will present a new edition of Harajuku Kawaii!! in S.F. featuring the return of Ayumi Seto and other notable models and fashion luminaries for a series of special live events presented in partnership with ASOBISYSTEM. Seto is a Japanese model and designer who appears regularly in a number of Harajuku fashion magazines, and her newly launched brand, Aymmy in the batty girls, is an innovative line inspired by a unique mix of ’60s and ’70s American popular culture, punk, and rock fashions.

“Kawaii aesthetics celebrate the essence of Japanese pop sensibilities, fashion and music, and has reverberated internationally and made Harajuku the epicenter of J-pop culture, and these aspects are a major foundation of the annual J-POP Summit,” Horibuchi says. “As we prepare an exciting roster of programming for the 2014 J-POP Summit Festival, we are honored to give an early taste of what’s to come with this special appearance by Harajuku kawaii model Ayumi Seto at NEW PEOPLE. We invite everyone to join in all the fashionable fun!”

On top of the free concerts happening downtown, the festival will also celebrate the second annual Japan Film Festival of San Francisco, which takes place July 19-27 at the NEW PEOPLE Cinema. The week-long festival will be highlighted by red carpet events featuring appearances by additional guests of honor and daily theatrical premieres of first-run anime as well as Japanese live action moves across a variety of genres. One film that should be on your radar is the area premiere of Pecoross’ Mother and Her Days, a heartwarming comedy about a middle-aged comic’s daily life with his hapless mother. Directed by Azuma Morisaki, the oldest active filmmaker in Japan at the age of 85, the film was critically acclaimed as one of the best movies of 2013 in Japan.

For all your foodies out there, the J-POP Summit will also host the POP GOURMET Food Festival to help whet your appetite as you experience Japanese music, film, and fashion. At Post and Webster on Fillmore Street, enjoy the fare of local food trucks, exclusive tastings by select sake makers and distributors, a wide range of Japanese beverages, and even a ramen fair where you can slurp different noodles from all regions of Japan. If you have a thing for Japanese ramen and don’t mind eating it before 2 a.m. after drinking all night, then this is the place for you.

For a complete listing of events and performances at this year’s J-POP Summit Festival, visitwww.j-pop.com/2014.

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