“Despite” is a fitting adjective with which to start a sentence about many artists performing at Fuji Rock 2019. Many musicians on this year’s roster have so surely secured their place in the hearts of the masses, that they’ve graduated from the Hero’s Journey and onto a special place akin to artistic immortality. Death Cab for Cutie have secured a slot at this year’s festival despite having parted ways with their signature producer and lead guitarist Chris Walla, and Ging Nang Boyz accomplished the same feat despite only retaining the lead singer of their original lineup.
- May 5, 2019 ● Experiences
For those familiar with the entire Fuji Rock experience, you don’t need to be told not to miss the pre-festival kickoff that happens on the Thursday night before the festival.
Not only is it free and open to anyone, even without festival passes, Thursday night is your chance to get amped up for the days to come and kick off the festival in true fashion.
- April 30, 2019 ● From Fujirockers.org
Taiwanese indie darlings, Sunset Rollercoaster, are not what you expect. They don’t thrash or shoegaze behind dim live house lighting, but instead prefer the precision of a recording studio, in this case, one built in former cinema. And while their music may be suited to the Newport Jazz Festival, loyal college students sing along to every song, and passionately stream their music on headphones.
The Waterboys appeared at Fuji Rock in 2014 for the first time, and will be returning to Naeba this year. The UK band was formed in 1983, centered on Mike Scott. Mike has been known as one of the UK’s greatest songwriters for over 40 years, with many other artists covering his songs; for example “The Whole Of The Moon” covered by Prince. We got an opportunity to interview Mike during his recent stay in Japan. He talks about his previous appearance at Fuji Rock and looks ahead to this year’s festival appearance.
- April 28, 2019 ● Essentials
It always rains. Even gorgeous sunny weekends in Naeba can see an hour or two of intense downpours, and this may well happen during that set you by your favorite band you are absolutely not willing to miss. Don’t let it ruin your day or weekend. As a group, Fujirockers pride themselves on rain preparedness, a culture which interestingly has its roots in the very first Fuji Rock, which was hit by a typhoon and left thousands drenched and many in danger of hypothermia (read an interesting account of that first year here). Festival goers have been prepared for rain ever since. To stay dry and comfortable, let’s break it down into three types of clothing to think about: footwear, hats and keeping your body dry. READ MORE
- April 22, 2019 ● Food
As a vegetarian of 25-years (12 of those in Japan), I have had plenty of experience of going hungry when going out for dinner, or just settling for salad and french fries at a restaurant while everyone else gorges themselves. My most memorable experience (and memories are often the things we wish to forget) is of arranging a vegetarian option at a company dinner only for the food to end up at the wrong end of the table and thus snorted down by the overstuffed coworkers there. There’s nothing like having to hand over ¥5000 for a dinner you didn’t get to enjoy to put you off socializing. If I sound bitter it’s probably because just because I’m still “hangry”.
Every year people contact me about what they can eat at Fuji Rock as vegetarians and thus I make a concerted effort to scout out meat-free options during the festival weekend. I had been hoping there might be more and better choices as the years move on, but while there has been a small improvement, I still overhear a fair few hungry people staring at food stalls trying to figure out if something has meat or fish in before moving on to stare at something else they can’t eat. And when you do find something to eat… well…
My biggest disappointment was in the Oasis area last year. After hungrily queuing for what felt like an interminable ten minutes for a falafel sandwich I was handed something in half a pita bread that may or may not once have been a falafel but was now just a mangled suggestion of its former self sprinkled over some cabbage. Sadly, over my tenure in Japan, I have come to view shredded cabbage as less of a vegetable and more of a bland piss-take. You can thus imagine my disappointment to find that 90% of the sandwich comprised this cretaceous chiffonade masquerading as nutrition. I am not ashamed to say that I was thoroughly British about the situation and instead of complaining went to the chip shop instead. But that was just my one bad experience and I’m sure there were plenty more customers who were happy with their grub.
Though it’s always difficult to predict what’s going to be available there are some regular vendors at Fuji Rock to keep you fed. Curry and pizza are probably able to sate most appetites (though if you’re vegan, good luck with that), and are the best way to keep yourself reliably fed. 2018’s new addition of a bakery at the Oasis food court had me salivating at the mention of melted butter pretzels, but also impressed with it’s vegan “burger” option: grilled slices of aubergine inside a bun with a basil sauce and a vegan cheese that was more tangy soy mayo than cheese, though tasty enough. Field of Heaven’s offerings consist of a jumbo fried tofu slab topped with avocado, cheese and tomato: a Japanese twist on avocado toast and good for those avoiding carbs. Meanwhile, the veggie tacos nearby offer a fluffy casing with a portion of beans and salsa. And despite the half-hour wait, the pizza up at Field of Heaven is worth hanging around for.
Festival catering by nature has challenges, most particularly that many vendors rely on frozen items, which means fresh fruit and veggies are not in plentiful supply. Practicalities coupled with a food culture that has trouble recognizing that bacon is a meat product means that the concept of vegetarianism is still sometimes met with a dog-like head tilt of incomprehension (though interestingly veganism seems to be much easier to process – less of a grey area?). Overall in Japan, there have been huge improvements in what’s available to non-meat eaters over the past decade. Let’s hope the festivals catch up.
Vegetarian Survival Tips for Fujirockers
1) Fill up at breakfast and then snack on nuts, seeds, dried fruit and protein bars until dinner. Make sure you come well-stocked.
2) Convenience stores outside of the festival should have something to eat – onigiri, yoghurt, fruit, etc. It might be worth taking a trip into town in the morning to see what you can scavenge.
3) Keep an eye on the Fes Gohan page once it’s available and prep by taking a look at the vendor listing before you go.
4) Plan ahead and be prepared to eat when the opportunity arises rather than when your stomach dictates.
5) Don’t assume that just because something looks vegetarian that it is. Always check for bacon.
Regular Veggie-Friendly Vendors
Mumbai – Oasis – Vegetable Curry Set (¥1000)
Pizzeria Pittore – Pizza (¥1000-¥2000)
1066 (Blue Galaxy Area) – Chips (¥700ish)
Field of Heaven
SWNKA SHANKA – Vegetable Tacos (¥700)
東山食堂 – Jumbo Fried Tofu with Avocado and Cheese (¥700)
Sakuragumi – Pizza (¥1500ish)
Photos: Fujirock Express 2016 and 2017
- April 19, 2019 ● Essentials
While obviously most of the action at Fujirock goes down within the festival gates, or just outside them, there are a few amenities that the usually sleepy Naeba town can offer during your festival experience. Home to a large selection of traditional inns, hotels, and souvineer shops, this little town is worth a stroll down the main drag at the least. We have covered these amenities in previous years but here is a bit of current information on one of the local facilities within reach of the festival.
If you find yourself in need of the following; Avoiding the long lines at the campground showers in favor of a much more relaxing dip in a hot spring, Naeba town has you covered.
Having been both a music journalist and a musician myself since my high school days in the 90’s, my journey through this industry has been epic and winding. My first festival, as a musician, was the Boom ’n’ Blast in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. A now-defunct teen band competition in my hometown’s central park, with a stage and a sound system worthy of household names, it made me feel like I had already reached the big leagues. However, they were still decades away. My first international festivals included Zandari Festa in Seoul, which I attended as an artist, and Music Matters in Singapore which I covered as a music journalist; the former operating on a mission statement similar to that of the original SXSW festivals (with an eye on showcasing the best in independent talent) and the latter hosting headliners like Pentatonix; the hot topics of the moment.