J-POP Summit 2015 Impressions
Celebrating the seventh year since their inception, J-POP Summit 2015 in San Francisco was simply a resounding success. Building upon their excellent traction in attendance from last year, this year's event would prove to be a defining crossroad for the annual festival as it was the first year that the organizers decided to charge for attendance in addition to moving it to a new centralized location; or as one of the event's organizers Erik Jansen put it, “it's a reboot of the entire event.”
Formerly a military post in San Francisco's Marina district, J-POP Summit 2015 utilized the historical Fort Mason Festival Hall at the Presidio as the main location of the show this year. This meant that nearly everything would be held indoors this year, a first for the festival. Highlights of the event included a star-studded guest lineup including incumbent anime band JAM Project, the hyper energetic melodies of Little Glee Monster, Gacharic Spin and FES☆TIVE, Kill la Kill/Sword Art Online singer Eir Aoi and many more. Although most of the experience was limited to the main events hall and concerts, other locales included San Francisco's Union Square for Sake Tasting (as well as extra musical performances), New People Cinema for film screenings and the Castro Theater for the Opening Ceremonies.
Through spreading the venues throughout an approximate two-mile radius, it solved much of the logistical nightmares that plagued the festival last year- namely the attendance boom and parking issues. Though parking was still difficult due to proximity of spaces near Fort Mason, it was still as easy as a breeze compared to last year's tumultuous three plus hour parking fest. Additionally, while there was a noticeable departure of the ramen festival this year, the absence of the problems that it brought along was a welcomed relief.
Thankfully for festival-goers, as well as for people visiting Fort Mason, there were still plenty of food trucks to feed the stomachs of the attendees including the Hello Kitty Food Truck, Bacon Bacon and more. Coincidentally as a bonus, the weekly Farmer's Market at Fort Mason on Sunday also brought fresh goods, fruits and snacks to the area. As someone who's tried to put his health first, the unexpected market was a first and greatly appreciated.
For the festival itself, the event hall was split into several different areas, each presenting attendees with a different flavor of Japan, from snacks and travel all the way through technology, as well as everything in between. This is one aspect of the old J-POP Summit in San Francisco that I was worried would be lost in the shuffle, but was glad to see that they kept in all in tact as it's what always made J-POP Summit standout from the rest of the pact of conventions.
Having previously used the San Francisco Japantown Pagoda for their main musical acts, seeing the festival using a more traditional indoor staging was a welcome site. The area in front of the stage was split into three different sections: media in front, VIP behind them and general attendees in the back and for the most part it worked as the festival's security staff held the badge policies fairly strict. The only time that there were any problems were during Eir Aoi's and JAM Project's performances on Saturday night when the PR announcer had to briefly grab the mic to remind attendees not to push or lean against the section dividers.
Overall, the experience this year was a huge step in the right direction for the festival and although I would still personally like to see them move into a much more accessible area, such as the Moscone Center or the soon-to-be-built Warriors Arena, in the future, it was still a refreshing and very welcomed change of pace from the usual convention such as Anime Expo and Sakura-Con. With the promise that next year's event will be even larger, I for one, can't wait to see just what they have in store for us next year!