We recently visited San Francisco’s Japantown last weekend for the J-Pop Summit & Ramen Yokocho Festivals. I’ve got to say, out of all the events at Japantown this year, this was by far the busiest.
Day 1 – Saturday, July 19
Saturday kicked off the festivities and, the second we arrive, all we see is a large mass of people; the event was just super packed it was nearly impossible to get around. Attendance was definitely not an issue at this show – the turnout was through the roof. On top of the J-pop and Japanese culture festivities, there was the Ramen Yokocho Festival going on so we decided to get some from the food booths outside but we soon learned that the line to get a bowl of ramen was a 3 hour wait! We absolutely did not want to wait that long so we thought of doing the smart alternative and just have ramen at one of the restaurants within the Japantown mall. Unfortunately, our plan had a big flaw – it turns out everyone else had the same idea which made it extremely difficult to get food anywhere. Lines for every restaurant went out the door and the only place we were able to get food with no crazy long line was across the street away from the mall and the sea of people. We decided to eat at a Korean restaurant named Arang where the wait was pleasantly normal. After finally having eaten we just spent the rest of the day scoping out what else the festival had to offer. The foot traffic was still bad outside on the street so, instead of dealing with the crowd, we decided to hang indoors in the west mall and check out the booths there. After checking out the awesome artist booths in there, we noticed that the amount of people outside had lessened considerably, so we went back out and checked out the booths that were set up on Post Street, which consisted of vendors like Kusopop, Lokisa, and a number of other cool dealers. After an exhausting day, we ducked into Daiso, picked up a few snacks, and called it a day. Sadly we never got ramen today but there’s always tomorrow.
Day 2 – Sunday, July 20
Sunday was exponentially better than Saturday in terms of people density, this made the festival way more enjoyable. We started the day with front row views of Japanese girl group Black Diamond who put on a unique performance which included calligraphy, para-para dancing, and songs from their singles. Afterwards, we did some shopping at the booths on Post St and inside the west mall. As mentioned earlier, it was less crowded today but the lines for ramen were still a few hours before one can even purchase a bowl, so again we missed out on ramen for lunch and dinner. Instead, for lunch, we ate at Mays Cafe inside Japantown’s west mall and had some of their signature Teriburger and Fries. After lunch and some shopping, we got to meet members of Black Diamond at their booth and picked up their single titled “Crazy Tribe” which they even signed for us. To close out the day, we took pictures at Pikapika and had dinner at On The Bridge. With Sunday not being as frustratingly crowded, we were able to have tons of fun at the festival.
JPopSummit alone is already a huge event that brings tons of JPop fans to Japantown, but combining it with the ramen festival was complete overkill. Maybe if they split up them up into two separate events, say giving J-Pop Summit and Ramen Yokocho their own weekends, it would help with the crowd control issue so that the festival-goers wouldn’t be ridiculously packed like sardines.