17th annual Fuji Rock Festival set for July 26-28
If you plan on attending this month’s Fuji Rock music festival in Niigata prefecture, be prepared to experience something that will leave you feeling like you just climbed the real Mount Fuji.
Japan’s biggest three-day outdoor summer music event — at the Naeba Ski Resort — is the ideal place to enjoy top-notch entertainment, beautiful mountain scenery and delicious food.
However, doing so means enduring massive crowds, long lines and brutal heat.
At last year’s festival, 140,000 people worked themselves into a frenzy watching dozens of bands, including headliners Radiohead.
While other music festivals might have more big names, Fuji Rock — taking place July 26-28 this year — hosts an eclectic group of artists, which means less pressure to catch every performance and plenty of time to move from stage to stage. This year’s event includes headliners Nine Inch Nails, Bjork and The Cure, but there are dozens of other bands playing a wide variety of music — from punk rock to techno — on numerous stages spread around the venue.
Other well-known acts appearing at Fuji Rock include Brahman, My Bloody Valentine, Karl Hyde, Vampire Weekend, Fun., Aimee Mann, CJ Ramone and Mumford & Sons.
In winter, Naeba is known for its ski slopes but in summer, it’s a lush, green mountain with plenty of room for massive performance areas.
Be prepared to do an insane amount of walking as you move around the venue to catch different acts.
Revelers also should be prepared for heavy rain. Many people wear knee-high boots and bring umbrellas in case the weather turns bad.
If it’s not raining, it will probably be hot and humid. Some relief might be provided by light breezes and a small river that sends ice-cold snowmelt flowing past the venue.
The ski resort is large, so there are plenty of places to sit during performances, although some of the more popular areas can get crowded.
There’s no shortage of delicious food at Fuji Rock. Any type of fair food you can imagine is on offer — pizza, hamburgers, yakitori, curry, yakisoba, udon, kebabs; even vegan-friendly meals. Prices can be a little high, but there are plenty of choices for those on a budget.
Hotels at Naeba are probably already booked for the weekend, but many revelers opt to camp. For 3,000 yen (around $30) per person, you can pitch a tent within walking distance of the concert grounds. A camping pass guarantees a tent spot, but not necessarily a flat piece of ground. Latecomers could end up sleeping on an uncomfortable slope.
Campers would be smart to bring earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, because the music blasts long into the night and begins again soon after sunrise. Add searing heat and sunlight, and it’s easy to see why sleep deprivation can become an issue.
Fuji Rockers must also be a patient bunch. There are lines to use portable toilets, showers and sinks and to buy food and souvenirs.
The long lines, combined with the heat, the distance between stages and the overall lack of sleep, make Fuji Rock a festival of endurance as well as music. So if you’re someone who has a hard time dealing with any of these elements, it’s definitely something to consider before going. But if you can overcome the hardships of an outdoor festival, you’ll find Fuji Rock as entertaining as any other big-time music event.