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Friday, July 1, 2011


Festivals with everything: Fuji Rock, Summer Sonic draw big names

Special to The Japan Times

All having been said and done, no summer in Japan is complete without the monster festivals — celebrations that effortlessly span genres and bring in huge crowds.

Mike Sunda

Mike Sunda (@mikesunda)

Favored festival: Fuji Rock Festival
Number of attendances: 3
Must-see acts:Yellow Magic Orchestra, Jamie XX, SBTKRT Japan's attempt to copy Glastonbury has never quite hit the levels of mud-drenched debauchery of England's premier summer festival, but that's probably a good thing. Expect beautiful scenery that's somehow kept spotlessly clean.

The first such bash is the Fuji Rock Festival, undoubtedly Japan's finest large-scale festival. Founded in 1997, the first chapter of the event actually took place at the bottom of Mount Fuji, however it swapped its iconic setting for the rivers and valleys of its present home in Naeba in 1999. Taking place from July 29-31, this year's gargantuan lineup includes Coldplay, The Chemical Brothers, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra and Mogwai, just to name a few. A marked characteristic of Fuji Rock is, however, the significant number of smaller acts given the opportunity to show what they've got in such an exceptional environment. The Faces, formed in 1969, will also make an appearance on the mammoth Green Stage, a reunion gig that will undoubtedly become a thing of legend in the illustrious history of the festival.

In yet another lip-bitingly difficult decision, punters will have to choose between the Rising Sun Rock Festival in Hokkaido and the sister-events of Sonicmania (outside Tokyo) and Summer Sonic (in both Tokyo and Osaka), all on the weekend of Aug. 12-14.

Rising Sun lies just north of Sapporo and is a favorite venue among many artists. Turning 13 this year, the event's seven stages will host the likes of indie singer-songwriter Keiichi Sokabe, melodic-hardcore act Mongol800, motorcycle gang-style school uniform-sporting Kishidan and young rockers Okamoto's. DJ and sound engineer Dub Master X and Sapporo-born techno artist Ken Ishii will play the all-night Moon Circus tent, ensuring that the festival will once again be able to live up to its name.


Daniel Robson (@ItCameFromJapan)

Favored festival:Summer Sonic
Number of attendances: 5
Must-see acts: PiL, The Mirraz, Death From Above 1979 Before I came to Japan, I'd see Summer Sonic's lineup and drool. It gets the best artists. Saying that, the setting (an expo hall and a stadium, bisected by a six-lane highway) leaves a lot to be desired. The Beach Stage is pretty cool, though.

Sonicmania and Summer Sonic will be much more urban affairs, taking place at both Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture and Maishima in Osaka. Underworld will headline the Sonicmania event with Primal Scream, who will be presenting their entire "Screamadelica" album. As for Summer Sonic, the usual big-name fare will be on show such as The Strokes, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and X-Japan. Also, check out hip-hop outfit OFWGKTA, and Beady Eye, led by Oasis' Liam Gallagher.

The last all-rounder of the year is Metamorphose. Taking place on Sept. 3, it will be held at the Cycle Sports Center in Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture, for the 11th time. The festival began with a stronger focus on electronic music, but recent years have seen it branch out into other genres. This year, check out main acts The Flaming Lips and Orbital, as well as British producer Gold Panda and electronic-jazz fusion collective Galaxy 2 Galaxy, who are simply awesome on stage.

With lineups as sizzling as the weather, this summer's festivals will leave you wondering why you ever wished for the heat to end.

Festival lineup

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