Virtual Reality Manga + Kodansha Open House at J-Pop Summit 2015
Japan comes to San Francisco again on August 8-9, 2015 as the 7th J-Pop Summit comes to town, and this time, a giant Titan and virtual reality comics are joining the party. J-Pop Summit is an annual celebration of the best of what’s new and fun in music, fashion, technology, food, movies, anime and manga from Japan.
Last year’s event in San Francisco Japan Town attracted over 120,000 attendees. But this year, J-Pop Summit is expanding and changing from being a free block party in Japan Town to being a multi-venue event with ticketed admission to its concerts, exhibits, film screenings, and tastings. It’s also moving from Japan Town to Fort Mason Center, a large, warehouse-sized seaside venue facing the Golden Gate Bridge that hosted Alternative Press Expo in 2015. Tickets for J-Pop Summit events at Fort Mason can be purchased in advance, or at the door. 1 day passes are $25, while 2-day passes are $40.
The Sake Summit, a festival for tasting Japanese sake and tasty bites, is also moving to Union Square, in the heart of downtown San Francisco’s main shopping district. Tickets for this event is separate from the J-Pop Summit exhibits and concerts at Fort Mason, and can be purchased in advance or at the venue on the day of the show.
J-POP Summit 2015
Also offsite from the main J-Pop Summit festival is the Japan Film Festival of San Francisco, which kicks off two weeks of cinema from Japan with a Friday evening gala at the Castro Theater, with screenings of films by J-Pop Summit guests Koji Morimoto (animation director, Akira and the opening scene from Short Piece) and actor Tadanobu Asano (Life in the Universe, Thor), plus a DJ set by pioneering Japan techno DJ Ken Ishii. Tickets for this event are still available here.
Also of interest to fans of Japanese pop art are scheduled appearances by artist/illustrator Yusuke Nakamura. Books Kinokuniya is hosting a free “talk show” event with Nakamura on Friday, August 7 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm, as well as book signing sessions at J-POP Summit at Fort Mason. If you’d like to be sure to get a book signed by Nakamura, head over to Books Kinokuniya (San Francisco location only) to pre-purchase your book and get one of the limited amount of tickets available for his signing sessions.
KODANSHA COMICS OPENS SF OFFICES TO FANS WITH MANGA ART SHOW, PLUS SHOWCASE OF VIRTUAL REALITY ATTACK ON TITAN
Attack on Titan head that will be on display at J-Pop Summit 2015
Another offsite event worth checking out, especially for manga fans is the open house for Kodansha Advanced Media, Kodansha Publishing’s new West Coast outpost for digital comics distribution and marketing. For the J-Pop Summit Weekend, Kodansha Advanced Media will open up its office at Digital Garage/DG717 to visitors to showcase an array of artwork by top Kodansha manga creators
The Kodansha Comics manga exhibit will include artwork by Katsuhiro Otomo (AKIRA), Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon), Hajime Isayama (Attack on Titan), Hiro Mashima (Fairy Tail), Hitoshi Iwaaki (Parasyte) and Shirow Masamune (The Ghost in the Shell). Digital Garage is located at 717 Market Street in downtown San Francisco. The gallery showing will be open from Friday, August 7 through Sunday, August 9th, from 10:00am to 6:00pm. This event is free and open to the public.
For those unable to attend the physical exhibit in S.F., Kodansha also will present an Online Gallery featuring the artwork at kodanshacomics.com.
FOVE Virtual Reality headset
Meanwhile, at J-Pop Summit central at Fort Mason, Kodansha will have several displays that are sure to fascinate manga fans. One is a giant ‘life-sized’ Titan head on display that is will likely be the subject of many selfies this weekend. The other Kodansha / Attack on Titan displays will showcase some intriguing possibilities for the future of manga.
Fans who attend J-POP Summit will be some of the first to experience a demo of a “virtual reality comics reader” that’ll allow fans to immerse themselves into the manga via the FOVE eye-tracking VR headset. Attack on Titan will also be used to showcase the spherical THETA camera from Ricoh.
Check out the complete list of Kodansha Comics events for J-Pop Summit weekend, including screenings of Space Brothers #0 anime at the New People Theater.
J-POP SUMMIT: MORE THAN AN ANIME CONVENTION
But make no mistake – J-Pop Summit is not an anime convention, not just a pop music concert, film festival, or fashion show, and it’s more than just a Japanese culture showcase. It’s all of the above and more.
Seiji Horibuchi | Photo courtesy of NEW PEOPLE
J-Pop Summit is the brainchild of Seiji Horibuchi, one of the founders of VIZ Media and founder of NEW PEOPLE, a creative marketing/event planning/public relations consultancy that also manages the New People shopping center/theater in San Francisco’s Japan Town.
According to Horibuchi, “The vision for J-Pop Summit always has been to showcase the many vibrant sides of Japanese pop culture to U.S. audiences. Even when I began publishing manga 30 years ago I knew there were other equally compelling aspects of Japanese culture I wanted to bring over.”
“Anime and manga are of course central parts of Japanese pop culture and they demonstrate the profound creativity and dynamic characters, stories and art that have made them so popular with millions of fans around the world. But they are also only two parts of a much larger J-Pop landscape,” Horibuchi explained. “J-Pop Summit has always celebrated anime and manga but we have strived to also integrate many other facets that highlight the richness and depth of J-Pop culture across many mediums.”
INTRODUCING NEW IDEAS IN FASHION, FILM AND MUSIC
Over its past six years, J-Pop Summit has showcased top creative from Japan, including pop divas like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and virtual idol Hatsune Miku, Harajuku fashion designers Sebastian Matsuda from 6% dokidoki and Naoto Hirooka from H. Naoto, and film premieres, such as the live action manga movie adaptation of Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys.
This year’s show has an even bigger array of J-Pop/J-Rock talent scheduled to hit the stage, including fan faves like anime supergroup JAM Project, high energy rock band Gacharic Spin, and video-game bubble gum pop band ANAMANAGUCHI, hot off their concert at Anime Expo in Los Angeles earlier this summer. Japanese fashion trendsetters Amamiya will be there, as well as cute mascot characters, cosplay, singing and dancing contests, plus goodies to sample, and arts and crafts to buy, and much more. Check out the complete schedule of events and appearances at J-POP.com.
Fashionable girls at J-Pop Summit 2009| © Deb Aoki
Horibuchi’s mission, to raise awareness of the contemporary pop culture from Japan to Western audiences is already apparent. Cynthia Anderson, editor of fashion news site Style Wylde has been covering J-Pop Summit since it’s first year and has noticed that the show has ” DEFINITELY grown by leaps and bounds.”
“As far as raising awareness, J-Pop has been super impactful,” said Anderson. “Whereas at one time I might get feedback on our Facebook page like “This is weird, what is it?” now when I post photos we have taken of people like model/designer Ayumi Seto (also a guest at J-POP Summit 2015), I get a ton of ‘OH MY GOD I LOVE HER’ comments. J-Pop is attracting major media outlets and everyone, everywhere seems to be more familiar with it.”
FROM FREE TO TICKETED: J-POP SUMMIT GROWS UP
Fort Mason Center in San Francisco | © Deb Aoki
As mentioned earlier, the biggest change to J-Pop Summit is its transition from being a free street fair event to being a ticketed show. Horibuchi concedes that such a change might mean that J-Pop Summit won’t attract the huge crowds that came to the show in 2014. But he’s willing to make that change if that means that J-Pop Summit will be able to offer attendees more attractions, and bring more artists and musicians from Japan.
This year’s event includes a tech / innovation track with an IT show showcasing futuristic inventions from Japanese companies, and a symposium featuring a talk by Kaoru Sugano, Creative Director from DENTSU Inc. and a tech talk on the Maker Movement featuring speakers from TechShop, Sunbridge and Wearable World.
There’s also a POP Travel Pavilion, where you can get tips and ideas for your next trip to Japan.
Ryokan Pavilion at J-Pop Summit 2015
“J-Pop Summit began as a free event and we have been able to show Japanese pop culture to well over half a million people over the past years. Now as the show transforms into its next stage, as a ticketed event, we hope to raise the level of quality even more, explained Horibuchi. “However, there are definite pros and cons between a street fair and the convention hall arrangement.”
He continued, “We could attract very broad audience if we continued the free street fair format, but the exhibition and presentation quality would be very limited. After 6 years of J-Pop Summit as street fair style event, I have come to the decision that we could bring more quality and a broader presentation of J-Pop culture at a large convention hall. But even then, we needed something unique and Fort Mason delivers that. Transformation is always a challenge since our audience has become accustomed to the free format. But I hope they will not regret what they have to pay for this year.”
Over the past six years, J-Pop Summit has evolved into a destination for Japanese bands, brands and ideas, and if past events are any indication, there’s more to come. “We are always inspired to try new things each year. We never want it to be the same thing,” said Horibuchi.