A Bridge to Japan
By Robert Haugh
Creating a bridge to Japan, thousands of anime aficionados, many in elaborately concocted costumes depicting strange, colorful and popular characters, convened at the Santa Clara Convention Center August 23-25, to experience a broad array of Japanese culture.
Featuring a wide spectrum of manga, anime, video games, fashion, music, martial arts, J-pop, cosplay costumes, cultural dance and arts, along with many distinguished guests of honor, Japan Expo USA First Impact arrived in the U.S. for the first time - in Santa Clara.
“Santa Clara is the heart of high tech and Japan is deeply connected to the high tech industry. Combined with the deep ties of [the] South Bay to Japan, Santa Clara was the logical choice for our U.S. home,” said Grace Heiderscheidt, Director of Marketing at SEFA Entertainment.
Boasting a who’s who of Japanese pop culture, the event allowed anime fans to meet and greet with an All-Star cast of Japanese and American anime and design legends. Guests of honor included anime artist, illustrator and character designer Yusuke Kozaki (character designer for Fire Emblem Awakening); Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (one of the founding members of the Gainax anime studio); Masahiko Minami (president/co-founder of Bones Inc. and producer of Whirl Wind, Iron Leaguer, Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Escaflowne, and Cowboy Bebop); and freelance illustrator Tatsuro Iwamoto (worked as the art director for Capcom's Ace Attorney series, along with providing the in-game voice of Miles Edgeworth and Manosuke Naito in the original Japanese versions of the games).
The three-day event also included performances by Japanese entertainment icons Dempagumi Inc., 1000say, Noriyuki Idaware Band (composer for a number of titles in the Phoenix Wright series), You Kikkawa, JDee’Z and more. Attendees also had several opportunities to get autographs of the guests.
In addition, the event featured many Japanese cultural demonstrations such as traditional Ryukyu dance by Okinawa Kenjin-Kai, martial arts demonstrations including Judo, Aikido, and traditional swords. Taiko drummers were also featured at the event. Other Japanese cultural arts included Japanese flower arranging, Ikebana, and the koto, the many-stringed instrument from Japan.
Several vendors, including video game icon SEGA, offered an assortment of novelties and gifts for sale, ranging from clothing and cell phone charms to elaborate paintings and traditional manga comics and anime movies.
Event organizers worked extensively with the Consulate General of San Francisco to showcase the talents of both the local Japanese American community as well as cultural performers from abroad - many of the performers flew from Tokyo for the event.
Japan Expo is the premier event of SEFA Entertainment, the American subsidiary of JTS Group, originators of Japan Expo in Paris, France. Founded in 1999, Japan Expo is the largest Japanese popular culture event of its kind in Europe, and one of the largest in the world with nearly 220,000 certified attendees in 2012. Organizers expect to return to Santa Clara next year, though nothing is final.
For more information, visit www.japan-expo.org.