J-Pop a draw for crowds

DANCE-OFF — Danceroid dancing group members Ikura (L) and Kozue Aikawa (R) present Vocaloid Dance Contest winner, Tiffany Fujii (C), with Animation on Display’s Dominic Nguyen at the 2011 J-Pop Summit Festival on Aug. 28. photo by Tomo Hirai/Nichi Bei Weekly

Two years after the opening of the New People building in San Francisco’s Japantown, the third annual J-Pop Summit Festival took place over the weekend of Aug. 27 and 28. The festival expanded to two days for the first time, thanks to fans who raised money through Kickstarter, a platform that funds creative projects.

The festival brought together a collection of music, fashion and art that evokes the spirit of Japanese pop. Japanese sub-culture fashion shows and contests featuring two leading Harajuku labels in Gothic Lolita fashion — Baby, The Stars Shine Bright and h.Naoto — were among the presentations.

Bands and artists with Japanese cultural ties and film screenings of the latest in Japanese movies and music videos at the New People Cinema were other highlights. The festivities also featured various aspects of Japanese sub-culture, including customizable ball-jointed dolls.

Vocaloids, digital voice synthesis programs popular among Japanese otaku culture, played a special role in this year’s festival. Sanrio and Crypton Future Media presented a Hello Kitty Hatsune Miku crossover design to help promote the event.

The Japantown Merchants Association partnered with Crypton Future Media to hold the Hope for Japan’s Recovery banner design contest to raise funds for earthquake relief.

POPPING OUT IN A CROWD — The J-Pop Summit Festival in San Francisco’s Japantown attracted people of all walks of life to celebrate their appreciation of Japanese pop-culture. The two-day summit, which featured musical guests, fashion shows, films and presentations, was packed with attendees. photo by Tomo Hirai/Nichi Bei Weekly

The festival also featured some of the hottest sensations among Vocaloid fans in Japan, including the American debut of Hatsune Miku’s arcade game and the festival’s special guests, Danceroid, a dance group that performs to Vocaloid music. DJs on the Peace Pagoda stage also played Vocaloid music, featuring such groups as ZANEEDS, a Japanese collective of artists and musicians that produce Vocaloid music.

Other musical guests included Seattle-based Japanese American keyboardist and singer Emi Meyer and Los Angeles-based trilingual (Japanese, English and French) rock band Layla Lane.

Graffiti artist Mike “Bam” Tyau painted a large “Spirit of the Forest” from Hayao Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke” on the Peace Plaza. The piece was auctioned off for $120 for earthquake and tsunami relief.

The festival also featured a livecast on the Internet by Dwango Co. Ltd., where attendees had the opportunity to broadcast themselves live on Niconico.com to the night owls watching them from across the sea.

The crowds gathered over the weekend were from a diverse range of backgrounds. A number of younger participants attended the festivities, including some who traveled from as far as Hawai‘i. Whether the attendee was there for Gothic Lolita fashion, as anime otaku, or as multi-national artists, they were all there in appreciation of Japanese pop-culture.


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