The J-POP SUMMIT delivered another colorful edition this past weekend with a multifaceted celebration of Japanese pop culture for its 9th annual Festival held in San Francisco. The Festival took place at the expansive Ft. Mason Center for Arts and Culture on the San Francisco Bay.
This year’s theme was ARTS, EATS, and INNOVATIONS and the program delivered a vibrant array of Japanese pop culture genres that featured live music, food and travel attractions, and interactive technology displays and artistic demo opportunities. The Festival was further accented by ramen vendors, sake tasting, and appearances by several celebrity Guests of Honor. Attendance this year topped 20,000.
“The annual J-POP SUMMIT continues to be one of the preeminent platforms for showcasing unique aspects of Japanese pop culture in the United States and we want to thank all of the talented artists, sponsors and people that continue to make this one-of-a-kind event so special,” says Seiji Horibuchi, Chairman of the J-POP SUMMIT Committee. “We look forward to the continued evolution and growth of the J-POP SUMMIT brand and to begin working on the 10th anniversary of the event!”
This year’s artwork featured throughout the festival venue was designed by guest artist Hiroyuki-Mitsume Takahashi, who drew a huge crowd for his digital live painting collaboration with Bay Area local VJ Tim Abad. Other notable live acts on the main stage included BAND-MAID, May’n, Babyraids Japan, Misaki Iwasa, YANAKIKU, Zoomadanke, TOKYO GEGEGAY, Azumi Inoue & Yuyu, Mitz Mangrove and LINQ OG.
J-POP SUMMIT attendees also enjoyed the festival’s inaugural ARTIST PROJECT, a DIY area where one-of-a-kind artwork was created. Participating brands included CHIKAKEN x TAKEKICHI, MAMARACHO, Ukiyo-e Heroes, and s | kubo.
Another iconic performance artist that participated this year was Ken Hamazaki, who presented the Red Tea Ceremony in collaboration with ITO EN, one of Japan’s most popular tea brands, along with the best-selling shochu brand, iichiko USA, and SOU・SOU KYOTO San Francisco, a Kyoto-based apparel brand that features kimono-inspired contemporary designs.
Ramen Summit and Sake Summit
Japanese ramen and sake, as well as the opportunity to “virtually travel to Japan,” were among the highlights from this year’s summit. Now in its second year, the Ramen Summit featured top-rated ramen restaurants based in San Francisco including Nojo Ramen Tavern, Orenchi Beyond, Marufuku Ramen, Hinodeya Ramen & Bar and Yoroshiku, from Seattle. Each ramen booth featured their own unique style of ramen and over the weekend guests enjoyed more than 4,000 ramen bowls. Guests also treated themselves to a variety of popular snacks, drinks of various Japanese food and beverage companies from around the Bay Area and Japan, as well as good eats from local food trucks including JapaCurry, J-Shack, We Sushi and Wapioca.
The Sake Summit featured prominent sake-makers and distributors from Japan and the U.S., where guests were able to enjoy a one-hour tasting of a variety of sakes and whiskeys. Participating brands included Kikusui, Hakutsuru, Ohishi Whisky, Midorikawa,Takara Sake USA, Sasaiwai, and Hatsumago among others. New this year was the Sake Summit Premium – for guests who wanted to go beyond the daytime sake tasting. This Premium event featured an educational lecture by Todd Eng from Sake Brothers, small bites from Shige Sushi, Kemuri Japanese Baru x UZUMAKIYA and Dandelion Chocolate, and a sampling of rare premium bottles of Japanese sake, Okinawa Awamori and rice whisky from Sake Summit sponsors such as SUSHI RAN, Sakenomy, and Ohashi Ryoki. Attendees were also invited to join sake club Kampai Sake Box, a sake subscription and gifting service.
Back after popular demand from last year’s J-POP SUMMT, the Travel Pavilion featured Japankuru’s virtual trip to Japan, “Japanimmersion” where guests were able to dive deep into Japanese culture and “visit” three zones - fusing the past, present, and future. Guests were also able to meet Go-Torch characters and regional mascot characters from multiple cities in Japan, as well as witness traditional dances, tea ceremony demonstrations, practice Japanese calligraphy and play interactive games. The entire Travel Pavilion was a true immersion into Japanese culture.
This year’s edition displayed cutting edge Japanese and US technologies collaborating exclusively at J-POP SUMMIT. With the theme of “Open Playground,” J-POP SUMMIT engaged leading corporations, emerging start-ups and J-Pop stars alike by collaborating to bring out the best of the burgeoning worlds of technology and entertainment. Panasonic and Fujitsu engaged in a “tech hug” revolution, where attendees’ whole bodies were transformed into remote controls that could make a jacket light up (A.C.T by Fujitsu) or control IoT objects (hugpathy technology by Panasonic).
At the forefront of gaming novelties, Interactive Summit gave visibility to the growing community of Dendama players led by guest stars Jake Wiens from Kendama USA (US) and Zoomandanke (Japan). The device is a new take on traditional “kendama” game turned into a highly addictive IoT agility game where friends can battle across continents. Panasonic exhibited interactive game “Samurai Battle” by using “Hugpathy,” and NTT Solmare brought their famous dating simulation game series "Shall we date?”
VR and AR was also big this year, as the Festival displayed new ways to showcase and engage virtual worlds. These places with clever, directional vibration patterns were sent to participants’ remote controls (Miraisens’ next generation 3D haptics). Visitors enjoyed the Milky Way galaxy like never before with footage captured in stunning 8k 360° resolution (NHK TV programs). Other technology put the rest of attendees’ bodies to use such as the challenging virtual drone battles (Xooms), AR concert digital graphic effect (Comusumegane by NTT West), and VR professional baseball training (VR sport coaching by NTT Data).. Attendees were also introduced to the modern singing synthesizer, Vocaloid by YAMAHA, which makes a virtual singer sing.
J-POP SUMMIT was a vibrant demonstration of Sci-Fi dreams; introducing products available to every type of consumer. Topology offered custom-made pairs of glasses molded to fit only the wearer’s face (goodbye sore ears!). Atmoph gave visitors the power to turn a bare wall into a vivid window to virtual lavender fields or snowy mountain landscapes at the touch of a button. Sound Table (KAMARQ) rendered audio speakers, weather stations and phone chargers obsolete by incorporating them all into a dining room table, leaving more space to enjoy with friends and family. SoftBank brought Dendama, Sound Table and Atomoph to J-POP SUMMIT as a part of their Future Marketing Unit project to showcase unique start-ups.