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Two Nihonmachi Saturdays…

Ramen

…at San Francisco’s Japantown.

S.F.’s Nihonmachi (Japantown) had back-to-back weekend festivals this August: the Nihonmachi Street Fair and the J-POP SUMMIT Festival / NEW PEOPLE grand opening (their CAPS, not mine). Miss T and I trekked out to the Bay Area both weekends to see if a new niche-interest building can make a difference in a retail area that’s been struggling for over a decade. Also, I wanted to eat Japanese food.

This year’s Nihonmachi Street Fair (August 8th and 9th) seemed less attended by both exhibitors and fairgoers—could be that folks were holding off for the larger J-POP SUMMIT event the following weekend, or my perception may have just been off. Whatever the case, Miss T and I had little trouble making our way through the light crowds at the street fair booths and in the Japantown malls. We made our usual fair/shopping circuit, ate at Tanpopo Ramen, and called it a day.

A couple of photos from the Nihonmachi Street Fair:

The J-POP SUMMIT Festival / NEW PEOPLE grand opening (August 15th and 16th) made a much bigger splash, drew larger crowds, and possibly sucked some of the life out of the previous weekend’s festivities. The centerpiece of the event was the opening of the NEW PEOPLE building, a retail/entertainment venture dedicated to Japanese pop culture. The 20,000 square-foot building features an art gallery, apparel boutiques, a book and collectibles store, a cafe, and an underground (literally) IMAX THX theater.

Crowd waiting for NEW PEOPLE

Entry to NEW PEOPLE was limited to 250 people at a time, with a long queue stretched along Post Street hours before the ribbon-cutting. Since I’m well past the years of getting excited about these things… about anything… we spent the morning taking in J-music performances at the Harajuku Kawaii Experience stage, shopping (again) at the good-ole’ Japantown malls, perusing the exhibitor and food stalls, and marveling at how many girls were decked out in Lolita fashion. In the mid-afternoon we finally stood in line to make our way into NEW PEOPLE—by that time a 20-minute or so wait.

The first floor cafe, mezzanine store, and third floor art gallery were well attended, but the second floor Lolita clothing stores were packed. NEW PEOPLE’s draw might be J-pop culture in general, but on opening day Lolita fashion was definitely the focus of attention.

Lolita girls

You can see the rest of our J-POP SUMMIT Festival / NEW PEOPLE grand opening photos—including some of the fun “STAIR123” art and fire safety evidence that NEW PEOPLE was not quite ready to open—via the thumbnails below. (All of the 40 Nihonmachi weekends photos are at maxpixpix on Picasa, as usual.)

Miss T and I will be heading back to NEW PEOPLE to see if demand for the J-pop experience continues past the opening week. (Fingers crossed that it does.)

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