The music event of the year is on! The 2008 Fuji Rock Festival, Japan's very own outdoor music festival runs from Friday July 25th until Sunday July 27th. Originally inspired by Britain's Glastonbury Festival, the Fuji Rock Festival acquired its name due to the first event in 1997 being held on the foot of famous Mt Fuji. Its current home is nowhere near Mt Fuji, but the name remains. Featuring international acts such as Underworld and My Bloody Valentine playing alongside the best of Japan's local talent, this promises to be an event not to be missed for any music lover. The 100,000 people set to attend this year's festival will certainly agree.
Since 1999, the annual festival has been held in Naeba in Niigata prefecture, 200 km north-west of Tokyo. A ski resort during the winter, it offers plenty to do and see, even for those who don't necessarily like rock music. The surrounding area is stunning, set amidst forested mountains, hills and streams. Dragondola, the world's longest Gondola lift will take you to the top of the mountain overlooking the festival site, enabling you to fully appreciate the area's natural beauty. High up in the mountains, far away from city life, fans love this festival and its unique atmosphere.
This festival is by far the world's cleanest music festival with hardly any litter as everyone obediently uses litter bags handed to them upon arrival. This Japanese fixation on tidiness and recycling creates a pleasant space for enjoying the music. Japanese music fans watch performances and move between stages in a polite and friendly manner. Queues for the limited hot spring baths, cooling showers and toilets are inevitably long at peak times. For those willing to wait a little longer, there is even a hot spa loaded with soap and shampoos.
On the night before the festival (Thursday night), there is an opening party with free entry. It features Bon-Odori (traditional Japanese folk dance), prize draws, food stalls and a fireworks display. There is even a steak eating competition with the chance to win a year's supply of beef. But of course, a music festival is really about music, and this year's line-up competes with any of the world's big festivals.
Reaching the festival from Tokyo is an experience in itself as you travel on the JR Shinkansen, reaching speeds up to 300 km/h. From Tokyo Central Station you will arrive at Echigo-Yuzawa Station after the 80 minute rocket ride, where a free shuttle bus will transfer you to the festival.
If it's your first time at a music festival, it will definitely be a new experience as you walk long distances from stage to stage, and try to see all the artists on the many stages. However, all the talent, audience and staff together make the Fuji Rock Festival a perfect place to enjoy good music, meet new people and rock out in the wilderness.
Essential Information and Tips
• 3 day pass costs 39,800 Yen and 1 day pass costs 16,800 Yen. Camping costs 3,000 Yen per person for 3 days. You must supply your own tent.
• Festival tickets and camping reservations available at http://www.ganban.net/frf08-main.html
• JR Shinkansen ticket, Tokyo to Echigo-Yuzawa is 3,300 Yen each way. Timetables and information available at http://www.japanrail.com
• Car parking available for 3,000 Yen per day.
• Purchase a camping ticket in advance and arrive early to choose your campsite otherwise you may end up camping on a slope.
• Be sure to have enough Japanese Yen as there is no currency exchange available.
• Further information about the festival lineup available at the 2008 Fuji Rock Festival official site http://www.smash-uk.com/frf08/