Originally I had planned to go to the film festival portion of the event, mostly because saying that you're going to a film festival sounds super fancy to me. Haha! However, we decided not to since I wasn't really getting excited about any of the titles available during the times we'd be there.
So instead, Sak, Penga-Sis and I donned our casual-otaku wear and boarded the Caltrain/Muni to get to Japantown. From the minute we stepped off the wild 38 bus (that dropped us off in the middle of the street), the only word to describe the place would be "packed". Booths were set up all around J-Town, at the square, inside the mall, out on the blocked-off street. And between the booths - a steady, constant flow of human bodies.
Not the place to be if you don't like crowds.
Now, I don't typically mind crowds. Crowds only mean something good is going on, right? But I don't like unorganized crowds. And during the brief time we were there, I didn't see organized crowds. It was very hard to see where lines stopped and started (or even what they were for), and unlike a convention which has clearly marked staff members, I didn't see anyone directing people where they should go for this or that.
As to what there was to do there? In addition to the already great shops in Japantown, there were also artist booths, vendor booths, and food booths. A lot of the food looked really, really good - but again, the lines were phenomenal. (Though I should note we did arrive around a normal lunch time.) There was a full-on ramen event taking place, which seemed cool - but again, gigantic line. Plus it was hot, a rare "nice day" for SF. I earned a lobster patch around my neck where I forgot to apply sunscreen.
Sak picked up some freebies from the crunchyroll booth, since we are premium members. We heard someone come up and ask if anime was popular here in the states. @_@
Which brings me to my next observation of why I didn't really enjoy the festival. I didn't feel like it was a unified celebration. At anime conventions - simple, you're celebrating anime with other people that like anime. There are offshoots of course, but the majority of the people are there for that reason. A chocolate festival - simple, you're there to sample chocolate. But this one? Although it's called a JPop Festival, I felt like a lot of people were there just for the food. Others were there to cosplay. Not a bad thing, but I'm sure many people there don't know anything about JPop. (Myself partially included, I haven't followed the JPop/Rock scene since the early 2000's with L'arc and Gackt, Koda Kumi and M-Flo, etc.) I don't think any of this is bad, but I don't think it makes for a very cohesive festival.
Anyway, I enjoyed the art booths, and we picked up a couple things - the most adorable guinea pig card ever (check out her work, it's all SO CUTE), and a plastic laser cut tsundere necklace (Sis') (didn't catch the vendors name, unfortunately).
After our quick walk through, we decided to leave, mouths gaping at the sight of a line to get in the grocery store. Wow. We were hot, hungry, and didn't want to stand in some unknown line. So we MUNI'd back down to the FiDi and ate some teri bentos at a very uncrowded restaurant down by the water. Relaxing!
Our friends went the day after (because I am horrible and FORGOT to update the plan), so I'll have to see how their trip was, but I doubt we'll be returning year after year to this festival. Not unless there's some major crowd control!