New People entertainment center opens in Japan Town (a J!-ENT article by Dennis A. Amith and Photos by Angelo Delos Reyes)
August 29, 2009 by Dennis Amith
Back in the 1990’s, for nearly a decade, I can remember going on the occasional trips to San Francisco and to shop at Japan Town.
There was a mystique at the time of going to the area. For one, anime at the time was not as huge as it is now, nor was it distributed at many major outlets. Japanese music was not easily obtained and for those of us who were fans of Japanese pop culture, our choices at the time before the explosion of online stores on the Internet was the UC Irvine bookstore or visiting Japan Town.
We chose the latter. We’d plan these Japan Town trips where we would travel to San Francisco quarterly and save our money as if we were visiting a theme park. I can easily remember how the stores were at the time… getting the latest Japanese music show on VHS for $3 each, going to Mikado Laser and purchasing an import Laser Disc for $69-$99 and a CD for $39.99, going to the their merchandise store to pick up the latest import SNES, Sega Saturn or PlayStation video game for under a $100, going to the smaller Taiyodo to find CD singles or albums the other store didn’t have, then we would make our way to Kinokuniya for the latest magazines, manga and also albums the other two stores didn’t have. We would then visit a restaurant for sushi or okonomiyaki, go to the grocery store and then visit the little shops that are outside of the mall area and then we were done.
Needless to say, once anime became distributed more frequently, Japanese music became easier to obtain and just literally, the Internet made things much more cheaper and products were easily obtained…our trips to Japan Town ended.
But now there is a reason to visit Japan Town once again.
On August 15th, New People, a $15 million, 20,000 square foot, three-story building has opened up right across the street from the mall area in Japan Town. The project comes from Seiji Horibuchi, the founder and CEO of San Francisco’s VIZ Pictures and VIZ Media. And what better time than now.
Horibuchi has been one of the key people in Japan to help introduce Americans to Japanese pop culture through Japanese animation. I can easily remember back in 1992, Horibuchi created the first magazine dedicated to anime called “Animerica”. His goal at the time was to bring American fans information from both sides of the Pacific. And literally, he was the man who opened my eyes to the variety of Japanese pop culture back then and here he now 17 years later bring Japanese pop culture to America through America’s first Japanese entertainment center known as New People.
The building was designed by the Japanese architectural firm Torafu and features a theater, retail, a concession area and more.
But what is most appealing to a lot of fans that we talked with are the boutiques. Within the past few years, many designers of popular Japanese fashion labels (especially those dealing with Gothic Lolita design) have been appearing at conventions in America and merchandise instantly selling out in America.
For a long time, people have wanted access to the clothing sold in Harajuku and now, people have that opportunity with labels such as Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, Black Peace Now, 6%DokiDoki and Sou-Sou being sold at the boutiques.
And what has been evident since the opening of New People is that people have returned to Japan Town. We have heard numbers of tens of thousands of people who have traveled from all over the state and from other states just to experience buying Japanese merchandise at the store and for me, having experienced that excitement during my younger years in Japan Town, it’s great to see that synergy once again.
New People is located at 1746 Post St and is open from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.. For more information on New People, please visit www.newpeopleworld.com.
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