Japan Expo celebrates both traditional and popular Japanese culture with a central focus on anime, manga, music, and video games.
Japan Expo holds three events in Europe, two of which are in France with the third in Belgium, their original Paris show being the largest. As a testament to its popularity, the 2013 edition of Japan Expo Paris which was held earlier this year had over 200,000 people in attendance. Now, the people of Europe aren’t the only ones that get to go to Japan Expo.
Japan Expo held its first ever show in North America, called “Japan Expo 1st Impact” from August 23rd to the 25th at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The expo brought top talent from Japan to meet fans and its mission was to help spread the word of both traditional as well as popular Japanese culture. Unlike dedicated anime and manga conventions, Japan Expo celebrates all things Japanese including traditional arts such as calligraphy, brush painting, and sculpture. Various martial arts were demonstrated along with other arts and crafts.
We were on hand to get a taste of just why the Japan Expo event held in Paris has become the epicenter where over 200,000 people converge on each year. Aside from familiar faces from the stateside anime and manga industry such as Funimation, VIZ Media, and Yen Press, other Japanese rooted companies came to show support including the clothing company UNIQLO, Bandai Visual, and Sega of America. The exhibit hall was full of vendors of all kinds that sold everything from anime and manga to antique Japanese swords and the most current Japanese music and movies.
There was plenty of talent on hand at the show and they were surprisingly accessible – which isn’t necessarily the case in events like this in Japan. We observed an all-star line up of celebrated guests from Japan’s entertainment industry including Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, the character designer for Neon Genesis Evangelion, Nadia, FLCL, .hack//Sign, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars and more. Others in attendance included the six member Japanese idol group, Dempagumi.inc, actor and singer You Kikkawa, video game music composer Noriyuki Iwadre who is famous for composing music for Nintendo Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Phoenix Wright, and Ace Attorney, just to name a few. In the artist alley, aspiring illustrators and crafts artists were showing some really great work as well.
Bandai Visual provided a rare showing of original artwork from Studio BONES and Evangelion character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto had a walk-through exhibit for the work he did on recent hit, Wolf Children.
Other sights that we saw included Sega of America’s hands on demonstration of their English adaptation of a Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F rhythm game.
There was an area of the exhibit hall dedicated to travel to Japan with booths representing several Japanese Prefectures, Japanese language schools, travel agencies, and even Japan-based ANA Airlines had reps on hand to give out deals on flights to Japan. Food giant JFC brought mounds of candies including Hello Kitty marshmallows and other snacks to sample, and well known Japanese book store Books Kinokuniya had a good selection of hard to find books and CDs available for sale as well.
What would a Japanese Pop-Culture event be without a few cosplayers in the mix?
The Japan Expo staff are clearly seasoned veterans that are accustomed to putting on huge shows in Europe. Judging from our experience at the show, their first show in America went as smoothly as can be and didn’t feel like a freshman effort in the least. Now with 1st Impact under their belt, we’re betting that next year’s Japan Expo 2nd impact will be an even bigger affair.
Japan Expo 1st Impact Official Site: http://www.japan-expo.org/
Images: Jerry Tsai