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"New People" Grand Opening in SF

by Evan Miller,

San Francisco's Japantown occupies an interesting place in the history of anime and manga fandom in the United States. It is where many Bay Area residents first discovered manga and anime in the late 70s and early 80s - some of whom would go on to form some of the first anime clubs in the western world. In the late 1980s, when most Americans had to go to Sci-Fi conventions or watch dubs on TV to get their anime fix, all San Francisco residents had to do was head to Japantown and thumb through the manga and LDs for sale there. Despite the popularity the neighborhood has enjoyed among anime fans, the 21st century has brought a new set of challenges to Japantown. With many residents of Japanese descent moving to other corners of the city, a few observers have worried openly about how the ethnic identity of the neighborhood will be preserved. Meanwhile, plans to revitalize the area through development have been stalled due to a lack of funding.

Enter Viz Media founder and Viz Pictures CEO Seiji Horibuchi. In 2007, news surfaced that Horibuchi and Viz had acquired the space on 1746 Post Street, former home of the Japanese-American Hokubei Mainichi newspaper (which has since moved a few blocks away). Tentatively called the "J-Pop Center," Horibuchi initially described the project as a theater with shops devoted to other facets of "J-Pop culture" in the same space. Since then, the project has morphed into a four-floor entertainment complex with an art gallery as well. The center also got a new name: New People, in reference to the term shinjinrui that some older Japanese people use to describe younger Japanese people.

While I was browsing the center and snapping pictures, I had the chance to chat with Horibuchi briefly about his feelings with the opening of the new center. He said he was happy, but quickly added that "now, the real work begins!" He isn't kidding; there are plans to open other New People centers elsewhere if the San Francisco venture is successful.

Join us now for a look at New People, its gala opening event, and the events that followed the opening in San Francisco Japantown.

Opening Ceremony and Ribbon Cutting
New People opens to the public in style.
Inside the Center
First Floor
A look at the building's design aesthetic and entryway.
Third Floor
We take a peek at the Superfrog art gallery, featuring original works by Final Fantasy legend Yoshitaka Amano.
Second Floor
More frilly dresses than Saturday afternoon at an Anime Convention, and some cool footwear.
Mezzanine Floor
The "store" for New People, featuring books, music, manga, and a healthy serving of quirkyness.
On the Street
J-Pop Summit Festival
We take a peek at the festival that accompanied the opening of New People. Includes concerts, people watching, and some nice looking toilets.

Text by Evan Miller, Photos by Evan Miller and Lanny Liu.

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