A unique festival experience: Fuji Rock

Last weekend I went to Fuji Rock. It really was an experience. As mentioned in last week’s blog Fuji Rock is not near Mount Fuji but at Naeba ski resort. It still is in the mountains, just not that mountain. If you have ever been to Japan you know that there are some cultural differences compared to Europe. These differences were also felt at the festival site.

Let me start by saying that it was a really good festival. There are some things though that could be improved. So where to start? I arrived by bullet train from Tokyo to Echigo-Yuzawa Station. At this station signage and staff made sure you could not miss the shuttle buses that would bring festivalgoers to the festival site. These buses ran like clockwork. Orderly queues and clean coaches.

At the festival site no queues for the stand where I had to change my ticket for a wristband. Long queues however for the merchandise stand that was next to it. Surprisingly there was no security to check my bags. I only had show my wristbands and I could walk onto the campsite. I can’t make up my mind whether this is a good thing or not. Let’s just say I was surprised.

Fuji Rock is different from any other festival I have visited. In my opinion it all worked and I had a great time but there are some things that just didn’t make sense.

Campsite and toilets

The campsite is on the ski slopes. It was a bit tricky to find a flat surface or a spot in the shade but as far as festival campsites go this one was beautiful. On their website Fuji Rock claims that there are 17,000 happy campers. With that many campers you would expect more toilets. Not sure how the festival organiser has come to the conclusion that 13 toilets in one corner of the campsite and another 40-or-so (all clustered together) on the complete other side is sufficient. This is just really bad planning. The queues in the morning were beyond ridiculous. This needs to be sorted.

A few of the toilets I managed to find on the campsite

A few of the toilets I managed to find on the campsite

The positive thing about the toilets though is that they were all clean. Well, clean-ish. Flushing toilets, plenty of toilet paper and every portaloo had a light in them. It can be done! Really impressive and something European festivals can learn from. But Fuji Rock needs more toilets and they need to spread them strategically on site. Not just the campsite but also at the festival site.

Food courts and a hot sun

The breakfast areas were poorly organised. The queues for food stalls were long and slow moving. One stand selling coffee to thousands of people is not working. Temperature wise it was hot last weekend. There was no shade to be found at the breakfast areas. Fuji Rock should provide shade sails at the different food court areas. It seems like a basic thing and yet nothing was done to provide any form of shade for visitors.

European festivals can learn a thing or two about the amazing variety of food on offer at Fuji Rock. There was so much choice and, in general, really good quality food.

buy your smokes on site

buy your smokes on site

The other thing I noticed was that there were no stalls selling the usual festival crap. No illuminating hula-hoops or feathered dream catchers. They do sell cigarettes onsite and there are plenty of vending machines where you can buy water and sodas.

Fan attitudes

Festival attendees do dress differently in Japan. It looks more like people are dressed for a hike rather than a festival. On Monday all my clothes looked a bit grim. Well it was a festival, right? Not the girls next to me who looked picture perfect in their white(!) jeans. How is it even possible?

People are really friendly and clean up after themselves. Honestly I have witnessed the cleanest campsite ever! On site there are plenty of recycle stations. Recycling a plastic bottle means to remove the cap and the sleeve. All 3 items go into different bins. Festival attendees take their time to do this. Loved it!

Overall the crowd behaved orderly. Yes, I’ve witnessed the odd drunk person but people are really well behaved. No screaming fans, no rebels, no…nothing. People clap their hands when the band asks them to do so. The shout ‘ooh’ or ‘aah’ if the band asks them to do so. But there is no initiative from the crowd to make their own party. Perhaps you think this sounds awful but it is okay. It’s just different from any festival I’ve ever been to.

It’s a chair thing

So many chairs...

So many chairs...

People watched Baby Metal from their chair. I have never been to an outdoor music festival where most attendees bring their own chair with them to watch a band on stage. I’ve seen it at village fetes but never at a music festival. These chairs became an obstacle when thousands of people left to go from one stage to the next.  

My festival experience

Fuji Rock takes place in the mountains, which makes for a beautiful setting. The whole festival just worked perfectly. But there are some things that can be done differently. To me the festival lacks creativity. The White Stage, The Green Stage, The Red Marquee are some of the names of the stages. These stages also don’t look very appealing. The Red Marquee is literally a red marquee. I’m sure they can come up with more creative names and a more creative look for these stages.

Fair enough some areas boost a lot more creative initiatives like The Heaven area and the boardwalks. These areas give the festival an actual festival feeling. The food courts offer so much more potential though. They are just what they are: food courts. But because the setting of the festival site (surrounded by mountains and forest) is so stunning I think these areas could have been much more creative.

I doubt I will ever experience a festival that is like Fuji Rock. To me there are a few things lacking to make it a really great festival. Having said that though Fuji Rock is worth visiting as it truly makes for a unique festival experience. 

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