• A primer on getting to/from Fuji Rock


    The last thing you probably want to do in the countdown to the 20th anniversary of Fuji Rock is spend a lot of time working out how to get to the festival site. You probably want to spend even less time working out how to get back. There are a number of options you can take to travel to and from the festival, which is located in the lush mountains of the Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture. Let’s go over each of these in turn …

     Most fans heading to Fuji Rock take the easy option and catch the Joetsu Shinkansen to/from the festival site.

    Most fans heading to Fuji Rock take the easy option and catch the Joetsu Shinkansen to/from the festival site.


    BY TRAIN

    1. TRAVEL TO TOKYO STATION

    The very first thing you need to do is make your way to Tokyo Station, from where you can catch a train to the festival site.

    (a) From the Tokyo area:

    Narita Airport to Tokyo Station

    The Narita Express takes around 90 minutes to Tokyo Station and leaves the airport roughly every half hour between 07:44 and 19:46. After 19:46, trains are less frequent and vary depending on the day, with the last train leaving Terminal 1 at 21:44. Tickets cost ¥3,020 one-way.

    See here for the Narita Express timetable from Narita.

    See here for the Narita Express timetable to Narita.

    Haneda Airport to Tokyo Station

    Take the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsucho, then change to the JR Yamanote Line and ride three stops to Tokyo Station. The total travel time is around 30 minutes. See Tokyo Subway map here for the exact route. Check train arrival/departure times in English at Hyperdia.com.

    (b) From the Kansai area:

    Kansai Airport to Haneda Airport by plane

    The simplest way to get to reach Tokyo from Osaka is via a domestic flight, which takes approximately 75 minutes and costs up to ¥17,080 return on JAL and ¥14,980 return on ANA. Flights depart every 1-2 hours. To get to Tokyo Station from Haneda Airport, follow the instructions provided above.

    Kansai Airport to Tokyo Station by train

    If you wish to travel to Tokyo by train from Kansai Airport, catch the JR Haruka train to Shin-osaka Station. The journey takes just under one hour, and limited express trains depart every 30 minutes. Change at Shin-osaka Station to the JR Tokaido Shinkansen Nozomi train. The journey to Tokyo takes just under 2.5 hours, and trains depart every 10 minutes or so. The trip costs ¥13,620 for an unreserved seat and ¥14,450 for a reserved seat. Check Hyperdia for exact departure and arrival times both ways.

    Kansai Airport to Tokyo Station by bus

    From Kansai Airport, head into Osaka (1 hour) and catch an overnight bus from Osaka Station, Tennoji Station or Osaka City Air Terminal. Buses leave for Tokyo at regular intervals between 21:00 and 23:00, and take about 8-9 hours to weave their way up the coast. A one-way fare costs under ¥10,000. There are myriad options to choose from, but Willer Express probably offers the most comfortable seats at a reasonable cost. It’s important not to skimp on this choice as a good night’s sleep when starting out may make all the difference at the other end of the line.

    2. TOKYO STATION TO JR ECHIGO-YUZAWA STATION

    Once you’ve made it to Tokyo Station, you need to get to JR Echigo-yuzawa Station. There are three options here: not so cheap (but most convenient), not so fast and not so flexible.

    (1) Shinkansen (aka not so cheap, but most convenient)

    Take the Joetsu Shikansen from Tokyo Station to JR Echigo-yuzawa Station. Trains leave every 20 minutes or so, with the first train leaving at 06:08 and the last at 22:28. (Note that there is a later train, at 23:00, but this doesn’t go to Echigo-yuzawa; other trains throughout the day don’t always go as far as Echigo-yuzawa either, so be sure to double-check the train’s planned route.) The journey takes 75 minutes and costs ¥6,150 one way, although you’ll have to pay another ¥520 if you want a reserved seat.

    See here for the Joetsu Shikansen timetable from Tokyo.

    (2) Local train (aka not so fast)

    Take the JR Yamanote Line from Tokyo Station to Ueno Station. From there, take the JR Takasaki Line to Takasaki Station. From there, take the JR Joetsu Line to Minakami Station, and make one more transfer to the infrequent Joetsu line extension to Echigo-yuzawa. The entire journey takes 4-5 hours traveling on these local lines and the transfer times can vary significantly between each of the three stations. Also, be aware that there are only a few trains a day that will enable you to travel between Tokyo and Echigo-yuzawa, so careful pre-planning is essential. The trip costs ¥3,350 one way. Take a good book.

    See Hyperdia for train schedules in English.

    (3) Seishun 18 (aka not so flexible)

    A Seishun 18 (Seishun Juhachi Kippu) gives you five daily coupons of unlimited travel on JR local and rapid trains (not express or shinkansen) for only ¥11,850. As the schedule changes each year, it’s best to take note of the validity dates. The five days of travel can be shared by two or more people, although if the ticket is used by more than one person at one time, those people must be traveling together. Each day one person uses the Seishun 18 counts as one day of travel. Therefore, if five people use the ticket on the same day, the ticket will be used up at the end of that day. But if you divide the five tickets among five friends, all five of you will pay just ¥2,370 to get to the festival. You can take the local train route discussed above.

    3. JR ECHIGO-YUZAWA STATION TO AND FROM THE FUJI ROCK FESTIVAL SITE/ACCOMMODATION

    Shuttle buses run to and from JR Echigo Yuzawa Station for all ticket holders from noon on Thursday through Monday. The fare is ¥500 to the festival site (the return journey is free). The shuttle buses depart Echigo-yuzawa Station from 06:00 until midnight (Fri/Sat/Sun), and depart Naeba Bus Terminal outside the entrance to the festival from 05:00 until 02:00. They are scheduled to leave both locations every 15 minutes or so, but this typically varies during peak times. The shuttle bus journey takes around 40 minutes, but can vary depending on traffic. Long queues can form during peak transit times, however, so it’s best to be prepared for long exposed periods of intense sunshine or torrential rain, where waiting times can easily extend past the hour mark. The shuttle buses also stop at Tashiro, Mitsumata and Asagai, offering people staying in those areas a valuable lifeline home.

    For those who wish to avoid the two-hour-plus queues just getting on the shuttle bus to the festival on Thursday or Friday, a taxi ride from JR Echigo-yuzawa Station to your hotel/guesthouse or the Fuji Rock entrance gate is well worth its weight in gold, costing around ¥7,000. It has taken me around 3 hours to get from the station to the festival site early on Friday morning via the shuttle bus (meaning I didn’t actually get into the festival until after midday), and so those who don’t wish to miss anything would be well advised to grab three newfound friends and split a cab. You will certainly thank me for it.

    It’s virtually impossible to call a cab from your hotel when leaving the festival (even from the Naeba Prince Hotel!) so if you’re thinking of returning to Echigo-yuzawa Station the same way, it’s best to arrange a return pickup time from your hotel with the driver who takes you there. If you do make such an arrangement, please respect the driver and be sure to call at least several hours in advance should you wish to cancel or change these details. Remember: Taxi drivers are human, too.

    4. GETTING BACK TO TOKYO FROM THE FESTIVAL

    The last bullet train for Tokyo leaves JR Echigo-Yuzawa Station every night at 22.24, well before many of the acts finish on the main stages. Most people leave the festival site at some point on Monday morning, so expect lengthy queues.

    The first Joetsu Shikansen leaves JR Echigo-yuzawa Station at 06:06. The next bullet train leaves at 07:07, and then roughly every 20 minutes thereafter. On Monday, July 25, JR has actually added extra bullet trains onto the timetable in an attempt to help move the masses from the festival site. The journey takes around 90 minutes and costs ¥6,150 one way, although you ll have to pay another ¥520 if you want a reserved seat. The smart cookies in the crowd will have already bought their return tickets to Tokyo, either upon purchasing them in Tokyo or upon arrival at Echigo-yuzawa Station before they jumped on the shuttle bus to the festival. The disadvantage in doing this is that you have to be fairly organized to leave the festival site in plenty of time to catch your train back to Tokyo (allow at least 2 hours, although even that will probably leave you scrambling). But even if you do miss the train you had booked a reserved seat on, you can simply line up alongside the thousands of others trying to secure a non-reserved seat. It takes a great deal of patience, but you ll get there in the end.

    See here for the Joetsu Shikansen timetable to Tokyo.


    BUS

    The only bus services that are available directly to and from the Fuji Rock Festival appear to be part of official packages. More information in English about these packages can be found here.

    As a quick summary, the return bus packages on offer run from Shinjuku/新宿15,000~), Ikebukuro/池袋 (¥15,000~), Tokyo/東京 (¥15,000~), Haneda Airport/羽田 (¥15,000~), Yokohama/横浜15,000~), Funabashi/船橋 (¥15,000~), Saitama/さいたま (¥14,400~), Sendai/仙台 (¥25,600~), Nagoya/名古屋 (¥25,600~), Shizuoka/静岡 (¥23,600~), Osaka/大阪 (¥28,200~), Kyoto/京都 (¥28,200~), Sannomiya/三宮 (¥28,200~), Niigata/新潟 (¥10,300~) and Nagaoka/長岡 (¥8,300~).

    There are three travel options for each departure point: return (top option), one way to the festival (middle option) and one way back from the festival (bottom option).

    Once you select one travel option, you will be taken to a webpage that asks you for more specific information regarding your itinerary. At the very top is a drop box asking you to select your plan. The options from the top are as follows: accommodation plan; bus+accommodation plan; bus+camping plan; bus+Pyramid Garden camping plan; bus plan; shinkansen plan; air+bus plan; air+bus+accommodation plan; air+bus+camping plan; and air+bus+Pyramid Garden camping plan. For the bus only, select バスプラン. Next, confirm your departure area (region/発着エリア and location/発着地), and the departure date/出発日.

    Below is the current bus timetable, with individual bus names listed in the far left-hand column. The following columns (from left to right) list the price, the departure date, the return date, the type of plan, the days of the festival you will be able to attend under that particular timetable (there are various options that include the Thursday pre-party (前夜祭), as well as the Friday, Saturday and Sunday), and the availability of seats (“予約受付中” means that seats are still available).

    It’s worth noting that all buses will invariably stop at a few rest stops for around 10-15 minutes along the way (ask the driver to confirm the departure time from each rest area if you are unsure). While these rest stops each have their own idiosyncrasies that make them a little painful for seasoned veterans, they offer travelers an opportunity to use the bathroom or pick up some quick snacks (ie, beer) to tie you over until the next place. The bus drops you off and picks you up for the return leg of your journey at the Naeba Bus Terminal (OX4), which is a short walk from the main gates. For non-Japanese speakers, the first entries listed under each individual bus are the times scheduled to travel to Fuji Rock (the event, or イベント), while the subsequent entries are for return trips. To take this return bus trip to and from Haneda Airport over a five-day period of time as an example, this bus leaves Haneda Airport at 12:00 on July 21 (Thursday) and arrives at Naeba Bus Terminal at 17:00 the same day. It leaves Naeba Bus Terminal for Haneda Airport at 11:00 on July 25 (Monday) and arrives between 17:00 and 19:00 the same day.

    More information about the bus options can be found here (in Japanese).

    There are also myriad transport + accommodation (air/bus/train + hotel/camp) plans available. See here for more details in Japanese.

    All official Fuji Rock Festival tours are managed by Collaboration Ltd (Yamamoto Bldg. 8F, Kayabacho 1-11-9, Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-0025). Email fujirock@collaborationtours.com (in English or Japanese) for more information.


    CAR

    Cars can be rented from Narita, Haneda and Kansai airports. The major car rental companies that provide booking services in English are Nippon Rentacar, Times Car Rental, Nissan Rentacar and Toyota Rentacar. The standard rental price (including insurance) for a one-day rental of a car seating four people starts at around ¥8,000, although you can sometimes find promotional discounts. Nissan Rentacar seems to offer the cheapest rental plans for those traveling from abroad, although those living in Japan with basic Japanese-language skills might also like to check out ToCoo!, which allows you to pick up dirt-cheap rental vehicles from all of the aforementioned companies from whatever outlet is closest to you for a fraction of the standard cost. Hiring a vehicle through ToCoo!, for example, allows me to pick up a compact vehicle from a Nippon Rentacar outlet just down the road from me to use for five days for just ¥5,200/day. It’s also worth noting that the price of petrol varies between individual petrol stations; at the moment, it’s roughly ¥100 per liter. Be sure to bring a valid international drivers license or Japanese driving license, as well as at least another form of identification when picking up the vehicle.

    Driving from Tokyo

    The most direct route from Tokyo by car is to take the Shuto Expressway Route 5, then the Tokyo Gaikan Expressway and Kanetsu Expressway. Travel in this direction (about 2.5 hours from Tokyo) until you get to the Yuzawa Interchange, which is the closest turn off to Naeba Ski Resort. Tolls cost approximately ¥5,000 for regular vehicles, and it should come as no surprise that the roads leading to and from the festival become extremely congested on Thursday/Friday and Monday. Remember, patience is a virtue.

    Driving from Kansai

    Be forewarned: This is an excruciatingly long drive that spans 700 kilometers. The Fuji Rock Festival site can be accessed by three main routes:

    Pacific Ocean route: Take the Meishin Expressway to the Tomei Expressway, then take the Shuto Expressway to the Kanetsu Expressway, and turn off as described above.

    Mountain route: Take the Meishin Expressway to the Chuo Expressway, then take the Kenou Expressway to the Kanetsu Expressway, and turn off as described above.

    Sea of Japan route: Take the Meishin Expressway to the Hokuriku Expressway until you finally reach the Kanetsu Expressway, and turn off as described above.

    Please ensure to obtain a car park pass if you are coming to the festival by car.

    And last, but not least, always remember the golden rule: Think, before you drink, before you drive. Police apply a zero tolerance approach to driving under the influence of drugs/alcohol in Japan.

    Remember, getting there is half the fun …

    Photo: © DAJF / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

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