This post will only be interesting to about 0.01% of you. So, soz to anyone who isn’t keen on festivals (or camping!) But I am EXCITED! In less than a month, I’ll be back in Japan, rocking out at the Fuji Rock Festival. Now, I’m not going to pretend that I know all there is to know about this festival, but this will be my third year at the show, and I reckon I’ve got a few bits of ‘inside info’ that can help anyone attending.
This is Part 1 of 2 about Fuji Rock. Next week, I’ll let you know all about how to be a festival camping pro!
FUJI ROCK FESTIVAL
Fuji Rock is an incredible annual festival that has now surpassed 20 years of operation (woo hoo!) It is Japan’s premier international festival, blasting tunes across three massive days in July, at Naeba Ski Resort, Yuzawa-Cho, Niigata. Attendees can rock out for the full three days, or single days if preferred. Many people choose to camp at the festival, but that’s really only an option! There’s lots of accommodation dotted around, but they do fill quickly, so be quick to book well in advance. In addition, I’ve heard there’s a lottery system in place for surrounding accommodation – but I don’t know the details for that. If you’re an international attendee, I personally wouldn’t bother with it so much, unless I had serious money to burn. The festival isn’t cheap, but the festival camping is – only ¥3,000 (approx. $30).
Here’s my ‘cheat sheet’ to Fuji Rock Festival!
- Travel-wise, get a train to Echigo-Yuzawa station, then follow the very obvious signage (and all the people with tents and backpacks…) down to the shuttle bus. Wait in line, and pay the fare to hop on. The fare will cover your return journey, too. The shuttle bus will take about half an hour to reach the festival, and they run VERY regularly from Thursday onwards.
- PRO-TIP: if you need to get a train back to Tokyo or somewhere else at the conclusion of the festival, then book in advance. For example, I’ll be traveling via shinkansen from Tokyo to Echigo-Yuzawa on Thursday, and back again on Monday, so I will book both shinkansen tickets in Tokyo at least a day before I leave for the festival. Trust me, this will save you a massive, frustrating headache on Monday.
- When you arrive, go and get your ticket exchanged for a wristband. If you bought within Japan, go to the main ticket desk. If you bought outside of Japan via Ganban, then go to the little Ganban tent to get your wristband.
- If you rock up on Thursday, and you want merch, then get in early! The Japanese love souvenirs, and the merch tents will be out of stock before you can blink.
- Plan your days before you go. The website releases the artist lineup about a month in advance, which can give you a good idea about who is playing what stages on what days. They should release the full timetable 1-2 weeks in advance of the festival, which will help you to manage your stage hopping. They also have a line-up app!
- Bring a backpack with all you need each day. The walk from the campsite to the festival isn’t short, so best to pack your knapsack before you head in. I advise you bring: a hat, sunscreen, sweat towel, cash, sunglasses, water, timetable, phone, tissues, headache meds, bandaids, and something to sit on. Which brings me to…
- You CAN bring seating into the festival! They say they don’t like it, but this rule is NOT enforced. Literally thousands of people bring their chairs, tarps, coolers and more into the festival, set it up on the hillside, and leave it. Yep. All day! Theft is such a minor issue here that people just leave all their chairs and tarps on the ground for later in the night.
- There are two main food areas at either end of the festival. The biggest is near the Red Marquee, and houses a massive smorgasbord of local and international fare from Thursday night onwards. The other main food area is at the furthest end of the grounds, ‘Orange Cafe’ near Café De Paris. ALERT ALERT: THE ORANGE CAFE HAS VEGAN FOOD! But it sells out quickly, so if you’re hungry on Sunday, get there well before sundown in order to snap up some yummy vegan and vegetarian fare!
- Pyramid Garden is nice to have a look at, but their restaurants are PACKED OUT! It’s better to just chill out there. However, along the way to Pyramid Garden is an amazing shaved ice cafe that you should definitely check out. It’s the perfect way to start off your Saturday or Sunday.
- I must recommend you trudge up the hillside, hop on a gondola, and go to the top of the mountain. Due to being a ski resort, the gondola to the top of the mountain takes about 25 minutes, and the views are phenomenal! Once you arrive, you’ll find mini dance parties, some basic fried foods and lots of space to roam. Check it out!
- Pace yourself. The festival grounds take at least half an hour to an hour to walk from one end to the other, and you will find yourself doing the penguin waddle at some points due to crowds. You’ll be walking and standing in stinking hot, humid weather, so keep well hydrated and avoid getting too drunk. The Japanese drink quite a bit, but not to extremes at this festival. Don’t be THAT person.
- Wear super comfy shoes that you can remove easily. There’s a lovely, cold creek which runs through the festival grounds and can be accessed via the bridge to the White Stage, and the boardwalk back to the Green Stage. Pop off your shoes and take a dip!
- Toilets are relatively clean, and I’ve never found one without a loo roll (thank God!) But bring a packet of personal tissues just in case. Oh, and some hand sanitiser – sometimes the taps at the loo’s aren’t the best!
- You should bring a phone charger with you if you’re worried. One year, there was a tent in the main food area which had free charging for devices. However, it wasn’t there last year. You can only depend on yourself for this kinda stuff, so be prepared.
- In addition, the wifi reception can be a bit hit and miss. Bring your own portable wifi with you, or use a sim card carrier with a strong network.
- If there’s a clash of bands on your schedule, you may have to simply make a choice of where you want to be the most. Walking from White Stage to Green Stage will take about 15 minutes at a good pace.
- I found that acts at the White Stage at night are not nearly as packed out as the Green Stage. You could rock up to the White Stage about 10-15 minutes before your fave and get pretty close to the stage. Unless they are a local fave: Babymetal’s crowd was INSANE and probably should have been at Green!
- You can get to the barrier at Green fairly easily through most of the day, too. But… if they are a headliner, forget it. Same rules apply to Fuji Rock as they do to any other major festival: you want a barrier/mosh position, then you gotta get in early and do your time. Once the sun goes down, the crowds get deep. Go to the loo before you “Sumimasen!!!” your way to the stage.
- Don’t underestimate the rowdiness of a Japanese crowd. If the band is a local act, or metal, or a very major headliner, THEY WILL GET CRAZY. You will be stepped on, kneed in the groin, smacked in the face, and pushed to the ground. If you’re alone, or worried, stay well back. Think of your safety first and foremost.
- This is an international festival, but the vast majority of attendees are of course Japanese. If you’re an international, you should try coming along with friends! You can always make new friends with Japanese people, but if you’re traveling solo, there is a Meetup group you can sign up with, so you won’t be alone. The organiser seems really friendly, and has loads of advice, so don’t be a stranger!
- I know I said this earlier, but please, PLEASE, don’t be THAT person. You know the one… with the culturally-inappropriate headdress, or the loud, drunken shouts, or the “I don’t give a crap” attitude about their rubbish, and especially don’t be the dickhead who grabs girls’ butts. Seriously. That ain’t cool ANYWHERE. Be respectful, be kind to your fellow human, and enjoy the festival how it’s supposed to be enjoyed!
I’ll leave more info about departing the festival for my next post, because if you’re camping, then I’ve got some good tips and tricks for you! But I will say that if you’re leaving on Monday morning, make it early. Get up when the sun gets up, pack up your camp, and get thee to the shuttle ASAP. You plus thousands will be exhausted, smelly and ready to go home, so the sooner you can get moving along, the better you’ll feel. Once it hits 9am, the sun will be blazing – try and beat it.
I look forward to seeing you back here next week for part 2! If you’ve got any Fuji Rock tips to share, leave ’em below.