Fuji Rock Fest 2016

13700199_10153558018210672_6227087620657805933_n (1)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.

13775894_10153558017945672_7820785792121760119_n (1)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.13709878_10157142040775335_152103955001757420_nThe 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!

13782157_10157145874390335_454282477039914332_n 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.

13716188_10157142040370335_2248265156586975337_n Man With a Mission @ Green Stage 13775972_10157142040650335_2842904084020258840_nTokiko Kato @ Cafe de Paris

13754187_10157140350125335_2500748989213029894_nCourtney Barnett @ Red Marquee

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