Update 7/2016: The J-Pop Summit is returning to San Francisco, July 22-24. This year they are adding an expanded Japan travel section and a “Ramen Summit” (!) to let you try all of the Bay Area’s best ramen noodle soups. Find out more on the website: www.j-pop.com
People that love Japan, LOVE Japan. I don’t think there are that many places in the world that elicit this much obsession from foreigners.
While, I admit to fitting squarely in that weirdly obsessed camp, I don’t often get to share my love with other Japanophiles–this past weekend was my chance at San Francisco’s annual JPop Summit.
As you might guess from the name, the J-Pop Summit started as a way to celebrate the root of some of this obsession: “j-pop”, or, Japanese pop culture (movies, music, and comics–things I don’t know anything about). As the event grew in popularity (there were over 120,000 attendees in 2014) they expanded it to include exhibits on Japanese food, travel, and technology… my world, and my love, so this year I made the trek up to San Francisco.
There were some fun tourism exhibits, chief among them a model “ryokan,” or traditional full-service Japanese hotel. As you would during a ryokan stay, the hosts invited visitors to dress up in a yukata (colorful Japanese robes) and geta (Japanese wooden sandals). After dressing up, guests are invited to tour a life-size model inn, with rooms based on real ryokans across Japan. Regional tourism bureaus and Japan-focused travel agencies were on hand to answer travel questions and help visitors book trips.
For Japanese food lovers, there were a few different events. There was a panel interview of three Bay Area-based food entrepreneurs who are working in the Japanese food space: Sequoia Sake, Breakaway Matcha, and Ichi Sushi. There were several Japanese food vendors offering samples, and Asian food trucks parked out front.
But one of my favorite parts was the festival’s popular break-out event, the Sake Summit. There were about 20 different Japanese and American sake makers on hand to sample their brews, ranging from very traditional and pure junmai rice brews to cute, fruit-flavored, carbonated, and peach jelly-filled brews–I admit, I really liked that one!
It was a great way to figure out some brands that you like, in some cases, get to talk to the brewers themselves. I shamelessly cornered the guys from San Francisco-based Sequoia Sake Company and invited myself over to their Bayview brewery for a tour. Stay tuned for that!
So if you love Japan, LOVE Japan, love J-pop, love Japanese food, or would love to learn more about any of these things, it’s a great event. Until next year…
More images from the 2015 J-Pop Summit:
Smitten: So, the Japanese Consulate’s San Francisco office has a robot that looks like a baby harp seal. It’s interactive–he nods his head and looks up at you with big, beautiful, blinking eyes. He has an official business card that says his name is Paro and his job title is, “Coordinator of Cuddles.” ??
I was issued a media pass to cover the Jpop Summit.