This post is a reflection that summarizes all the different things we experienced over the August 25 – 26 weekend. The J-Pop Summit Festival 2012 felt lighter, cheerful than last year’s grounded atmosphere. However, it was clear that last year’s earthquake and tsunami disaster are still fresh in people’s mind. Loving shout-outs and “gambatte ne!” messages to Japan echoed tremendously in a weekend painted with cyberpop overload.

Overall, J-Pop Summit Festival 2012 really delivered. It was a really great decision on the committee to focus the majority of the events on the outdoor Pagoda Plaza. Windy / cold / sunny weather inconsistency aside, it gave a clear core of focus throughout the weekend. The vendors and food trucks were easily accessible on Post St., the street closures were minimal, it was a successful weekend in my eyes.

On that weekend, we extended a warm welcome to Shibuya fashion darling Liz Lisa, who not only opened a pop-up shop (pictured left) but also held a Liz Lisa fashion contest on Saturday. Flowery, dreamy, girly, and sweet was the name of the game and all of the contestants delivered. They dressed similarly, but each had her own focus piece that they built around. Kawaii through and through!

Departing from Shibuya fashion style, we arrived at a presentation of one of the finest Harajuku fashion: h. Naoto’s GRAMM and FRILL. GRAMM is darker and grounded, whereas FRILL is very etherial and light. No matter which styles they came from, the outfits were so meticulously detailed and beautifully constructed. Furthermore, I really like how each models were unique in their own right. And the hair pieces (one of them is pictured right) were so gorgeous that I suddenly had a DIY twitch to make one.

My only slight criticism for GRAMM & FRILL’s fashion presentation is that being on an outdoor stage, it was harder to see the details of the outfits. True h. Naoto fans perhaps would benefit more from an indoor presentation (this year, the Evangelion pop-up museum was in the 3rd floor of New People, the location in which h. Naoto had his presentation last year), however with all things considered, it was a great compromise.

And I personally am still contemplating this encounter with Rome Kanda. It was an unplanned short interview session; having just watched “I Survived a Japanese Game Show” on the internet several weeks prior, it felt interesting to suddenly sit just directly across Kanda-san. On top of it, he is such a gracious man with a lot of heart. I hope I can meet him again someday. If not, I wish to read about it on his Samurai Spirit digital manga :)

The Vocaloid dance contest brought a great deal of talented contestants, who danced (some of them even choreographed) their asses off along to popular Vocaloid songs. The addition of dance duet contestants, as well as really high quality dancing (Hinamori – the runner-up – fiercely danced in heels!) really made this event one of the highlights of the J-Pop Summit Festival 2012.

While the Vocaloid dance contest really delivered, the Saturday night presentation of VOCALEKT Visions production featuring Hatsune Miku at the New People cinema fell a bit flat. Yes, it was a sold-out event, but the cinema was too small to accommodate what the production could have become. The fans were there, people were ready to get excited, but ultimately some people had to walk out before it concluded just because the excitement was not really present.

I was also expecting a lot more pieces for UNIQLOOKS photo shoot opportunity, however there were “only” UNIQLO’s light down jackets and vests (albeit in various colors) available. The website offered such an exciting array of pieces, but I guess San Francisco weather and time constraint made the light down pieces became the safest choices.

I didn’t get to see the indie Japanese band Akabane Vulgars (pictured left) performed, but looking from the fans lining up to get their CDs / T-shirts / piece of paper autographed, they have a solid fan base here. And they looked stunning in their all-red ensemble, don’t you think? They are in the middle of its US tour right now, so check out if they’re coming to your city!

Baby The Stars Shine Bright fashion contest brought out the best of the best in lolita fashion enthusiasts from all over the Bay Area and beyond, and the pool of finalists this year was bigger than ever. Two male finalists joined in, and the competition was SO on. Pictured on the right was the last contestant of the day (all dressed up to the nines, plus those balloons!), and she’s the perfect example of how detailed and immaculate these contestants prepared to be in this competition. The whole lolita fashion movement is not just a dress-up impulse for them, it’s a lifestyle that they committed themselves in. To see them really stood out above what the mainstream people are more gravitated towards, it was really a sight to marvel.

Ah, and who could forget the J-Pop Summit Festival 2012 headliner Kylee? The J-Pop princess delivered in a very energetic 45-minute set. My favorite song of hers is one of her earliest, “Kimi Ga Iru Kara“. It effortlessly felt right to underline the overall atmosphere of that weekend. Starting her university live in Stanford this fall, it remains to be seen how she’s going to juggle her singing career in Japan and the US while balancing her study life. The very best luck to Kylee!

And last but not least, I really had to include this picture that Christian took of this guy sitting across Ken Hamazaki performing a tea ceremony. See that awesome Genki Sudo shirt? We Are All One. Yes, indeed we are. I sincerely thank you for the effective message.

Below is the album full of 118 images of highlights of the J-Pop Summit Festival 2012 that Christian Hadidjaja and I took. Please feel free to browse (click once on the image below to expand the whole album). Were you there? And if you were not, you would know what you missed out! And do try to come next year :)

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Thank you once again for the J-Pop Summit Festival 2012 Committee, especially Erik Jansen who invited us. Congratulations and see you again next year!

Have a great weekend, everybody,

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