As soon as we saw a grown man in a Pikachu suit, I knew that the J-POP Summit was going to be all that we had hoped.
We have been kind of Japan sick since getting home from Tokyo. There have been days that we eat nothing but Japanese food and nights of Japanese movie marathons. I can also verify that Daniel has definitely been playing Pokémon Go like a Japanese teenager. We keep circling back to a stopover that only lasted four days because four days was hardly enough to experience it all. I figure we can dwell on it, or we can plan our trip back, so I guess we’ll do both.
In San Francisco, we’re lucky enough to have the largest Japantown in the country, equipped with real escape games, ramen bars, Japanese style arcades, and, of course, Daiso. This also means tons of Japanese cultural events. We saw that the J-POP Summit would be taking over Fort Mason, and our nerdiest selves flourished. We snagged two tickets, cleared our schedules, and braced ourselves for a trip back to Tokyo… sort of
What is J-Pop?
J-POP is the musical expression of adorable. Technically speaking, J-POP is Japanese pop music, though I’d argue that the genre extends beyond traditional pop. It started with sugarey uptempo music, but the genre expanded to include elements of soul, rock, and even metal — well, at least Baby Metal. Anything cute, catchy, and Japanese may just be J-POP.
Just check out the headliner from this year’s J-POP Summit – Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – and the definition of J-POP should become astonishingly clear.
What is a J-POP Summit?
The J-POP Summit in San Francisco is an exploration of Japanese pop culture, spanning everything from music, fashion, film, art, games, and food. There are exhibitor booths, a main stage, pop-up boutiques, food trucks galore, and a whole lot of other things to catch your eye along the way. Here are some of the J-POP Summit highlights:
- Cosplay Masquerade: Cosplay (aka costume play) is nearly inseparable from J-POP. Participants in the Cosplay Masquerade dress as their favorite anime & game characters, and only the most dedicated take the stage; many admitted that their costumes cost $1,000+ and took upwards of a year to make!
- Real Escape Game: We’re admittedly obsessed with real escape rooms, so we’ve been the first to try out any of SCRAP’s large format games. By tacking a real escape game onto our J-POP Summit ticket, we spent the Summit in an alternate dimension (aka wandered around the pavilion in 3-D glasses and solved puzzles).
- Ramen Summit: How dare we put this third! Japanese food trucks circle around Fort Mason, selling everything from takoyaki to karage, but all we ever really want is ramen. For $8/bowl, grab ramen from the [one of five] ramen bars. We were a bit disappointed that the summit wasn’t an organized tasting, but one bowl of ramen is better than none! For more on Japanese food, check out our list of must eat foods in Tokyo!
- Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Live: For true J-POP fans, the opportunity to see Kyary Pamyu Pamyu live was the real highlight of the J-POP Summit 2016. She’s known for combining the cute with the grotesque, and is really a J-POP legend. Now, just try to get PONPONPON out of your head.
- Interactive Summit: At the interactive summit, we got to experience the latest advances in Japanese tech, from the world’s most advanced toilet, to a motorcycle-riding humanoid, to a vest that expresses your dog’s feelings through color (really…). On the market for a new costume for your robot or interactive shoes? You’ve come to the right place.
- Live J-POP Musical Performances: With featured groups like GARNiDELiA, Silent Siren, Domobics with Tokyo Performance Doll, and World Order, J-POP fans will have a music festival of sorts in addition to the J-POP Summit.
- Japan Film Festival of San Francisco: Running concurrently with the event is a film festival. Check out the full schedule and snag tickets to some of the screenings.
Photos from the J-POP Summit
Practical Information for visiting the J-POP Summit in San Francisco:
What is a J-POP Summit? Event / Festival
Where is it? Fort Mason, San Francisco, California, USA
How much does it cost? $25 – $150. If you’re a die hard J-POP fan, splurge on a meet-and-greet with the artists!
How long do I need? 1 day
- Check out the J-POP Summit schedule ahead of time to be sure you’re there for your favorite events.
- San Francisco’s Japantown is pretty rad year around. If you’re not in town for the J-POP Summit, the trip to Japantown is still worth it!