Fuji Rock Fest 2016
Fuji Rock is famous for two reasons: the first festival in 1997 was a disaster and got cancelled after the first night due to a vicious storm. Its other claim to fame is that it takes place nowhere near Mount Fuji. After the first year’s disaster, the organizers moved the location but kept the name.
So here we are! High in the Japanese Alps in central Honshu, at Naeba, Niigata-ken. This is where the fest has taken place every summer since 1999, the same prefecture where Yuko was born. We found a guesthouse in Tokamachi, about 30 minutes down Route 17, much closer than her hometown over two hours away. Japan may be a “semai kuni” (narrow country), but the mountain roads can meander like a wet soba noodle.The festival site is impressive. Compared to Coachella, Fuji is far superior. It sprawls out over the entire ski resort and feels like three kilometers from end-to-end. The trails are gorgeous, canopied by waving trees and laced with diamond-tinted streams. There are four main stages with the Green Stage being the largest. We were warned that it rains every year but after three days all we felt were a few drops. Throughout the weekend the sky was wrapped in a gauzy haze or lit up with a bright sun – lucky us!
While few hip-hop or indie artists are included on the bill, I found the line-up to be a perfect blend of Japanese and foreign artists. Highlights for me included Courtney Barnett, James Blake, Baby Metal, Man With a Mission, Tokiko Kato, and Ken Yokoyama. I was severely bummed that the Avalanches cancelled at the last minute, but it was a blast seeing all the Japanese artists that were new for me.