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J-Pop Summit 2010

A Japantown Throwdown

Curious about modern Japanese pop culture? You won’t want to miss this year’s J-Pop Summit Festival, kicking off September 13th.

New People, the year-old four-story shopping/entertainment/gallery complex across the street from Nihonmachi Mall in Japantown, has fashion shows, film premieres, live art, video game demos, panel discussions, costume contests, concerts and collaborations with Bazaar Bizarre and Neon Monster planned for this year.

“The J-Pop Summit is a gateway festival for pop culture fans of all countries to come together, share their backgrounds and build future dreams,” says Manami Iibioshi, director of New People.

For those unfamiliar, some key facets of J-Pop showcased by New People include Lolita, Goth, and punk fashions/lifestyles; kawaii (all things cutesy); modern interpretations of traditional Japanese Jikatabi (construction worker shoes); food; and film.

The week of festivities kicks off September 13th with a panel hosted by Otaku USA magazine Editor Patrick Macias on the topic of the “Bad Girls and Wild Women” of Japanese cinema and a screening of “lurid prison film” Female Prisoner 71. This and other film events will take place at Viz Cinema, New Peoples’s unique subterranean theatre.

Two standout film events planned include Harajuku Kawaii Night and Hatsune Miku: Virtual Idol Film Concert. At Harajuku Kawaii Night (tickets $20), you will learn all about Harajuku fashion (no, it was not invented by Gwen Stefani), from history to its current state as told by 6%DOKIDOKI (one of New People’s fashion boutiques) founder Sebastian Masuda. View footage from the August 2010 Harajuku Fashion Walk from Harajuku and be treated to a fashion show. Best-dressed guests get to meet Masuda.

In her own class altogether, Hatsune Miku is a sixteen-year-old long green pigtail-rocking music sensation. She’s also virtual: Her vocal output is a mix between flesh-and-blood people and music production software. She’ll be making her American big-screen debut via virtual concert on the September 18th.

Other film events planned for the summit include Anime Night, a Noise Pop screening of 77 Boadrum, a documentary on Japanese free-rock group Boadrum, the San Francisco Premiere of Detroit Metal City, based on the metal comedy manga series by Kiminori Wakasugi, and an outdoor screening of Howl’s Moving Castle in Japantown Peace Plaza Sunday evening.

On the fashion front, the Harajuku Kawaii Experience scheduled for the Post Street stage will feature a fashion show with shop girls from Harajuku. If you’re a Harajuku fan, don’t miss the 6%DOKIDOKI Pop Up Shop on the mezzanine floor in front of the New People store, September 16th to 19th.

Black Peace Now, a Japanese brand catering to the goth/punk style with a U.S. Flagship store located in New People, hosts BPN Fashionista 2010 on September 18th (Summit Day). The event will award “the ultimate best-dressed goth fashionista who is able to take the [BPN] fashion and run with it.” Entrants get their turn on the catwalk in front of festival attendees at the Post Street Stage, with the opportunity to win an entire outfit ($400-600 value) and photo-op with a professional photographer from Moholy Ground magazine.

SOU • SOU, another New People boutique, has gained popularity through collaborations with Le Coq Sportif, expanding from modern twists on Tabi work shoes to accessories for style-conscious cyclists, including belts, messenger bags, socks, and arm warmers.

“Tabi work shoes are based on the traditional Japanese carpenter or workman’s shoe,” Iibioshi says.

The most easily identifiable trait of Tabi shoes is the articulated toe; this separate toe “allows for [a more stable base] for the worker who is climbing or balancing,” Iibioshi says. “Due to the light sole, you can feel the unevenness of the ground and this gives you a good massage effect.

SOU • SOU’s tabi is unique, with playful and vibrant patterns based on motifs and icons from Japanese culture and designed by Katsuji Wakisaka, who was previously a designer for Marimekko for several years.

SOU • SOU Bikers Fashion Show will showcase biking-inspired fashions and Tabi footwear on September 18th in Peace Plaza, 1:30pm.

For Cosplay enthusiasts, don’t miss the Animation On Display anime Cosplay contest. Art and toy collectors won’t be disappointed either. Gloomy Bear creator Mori Chack will also give an interview on September 18th, and the first 50 customers to purchase the New People exclusive Gloomy Bear T-shirt will get passes to an intimate autograph session with Chack.

Additionally, Vinyl Village will feature vinyl figurines and masterpieces from the Bay Area
curated by local toy maven Jeremy Brautman of Neon Monster. You’ll find wares from Dragatomi, Blamo Toys, Kuso Vinyl, Team Skullyboom, and Neon Monster.

For a mix of Western and Asian-inspired handmade crafts, New People and Bazaar Bizarre SF are teaming up for the fourth time for the Artist’s Alley: a market with local and cross-country arts and crafts vendors in the Buchanan Mall. Graffiti enthusiasts will want to catch Bay Area graffiti master Estria at work; he’ll be tagging up four canvases that will be auctioned off.

Girl-power is the theme of the Pagoda Stage at Peace Plaza, with performances from female rapper Hopie Spitshard, girl trio Jinny Oops! from Osaka, local female indie band Excuses for Skipping and J-Pop diva remixes by DJ Amaya.

Officially, Summit day kicks off on September18th at 11am with a traditional Kagami-wari: the celebratory breaking of a sake barrel, at the entrance of New People. 2009 attendees should find this year’s summit much larger, more varied, and altogether more exciting.