To finish off adventure month, I spent the last weekend of July at Japan's famous Fuji Rock festival, now in it's 11th year.
I've never been a big concert goer, I think I've only been to about 2 concerts in my entire life. So how did I end up going? Actually it was Kumi who was the impetus for this particular adventure, she'd been wanting to go for quite a few years now.
The festival runs from Friday to Sunday but we decided to go up on Sunday only, due to time and money constraints. Here we are Sunday morning after a long train and bus ride, ready at last to enter Fuji Rock.
Getting there was a bit tiring. Once you get off the bullet train, there is a shuttle bus departing every 5-10 minutes or so. You can see the little bus off in the distance, and yes, that is the lineup waiting to get on. The bus was free which was nice but still, you might want to consider renting a car....
The very first year, the festival was located nearby Mt. Fuji, hence the name, but for reasons that are still unclear to me, they changed the location. Now it's held in on Mt. Naeba which is a ski resort in Niigata, nowhere near Mt. Fuji. The name stuck though.
There was one major stage, a few secondary stages, and a number of small ones, all located at different points around a forested area. Getting from stage to stage required a fairly long walk and in some cases, through the woods. Nice touch, but the beauty and quietness of nature were marred slightly by the other million or so people that were walking with you.
My main reason for going to Fuji Rock was to see one of my favourite bands 'The Shins', perform live. I had little, or no knowledge about the other bands performing that day, and therefore low expectations, but some of them were surprisingly good!
The day started off poorly when setting up our stuff in front of the Green (main) Stage to the sounds of 'Fermin Muguruza'. Not sure where they were from, but it was some kind of ska band, and while I like ska, they definitely didn't earn a place on my like list. We decided to walk around to the other stages and the day improved from there.
At the Field of Heaven stage, we listened to 'Jimmy and the Vivids', a fun Japanese group which sang a lot of 60's stuff, as well as some barber shop.
After they finished we headed back to the Green stage again to catch 'Mika', the one hit wonder from England. He put on a great show though and seemed to be channeling Freddy Mercury the whole time, running around with manic energy and enthusiasm and having a good raport with the crowd.
However The Shins, who were my reason for coming, were a disapointment to me. Even though they performed 5 of my favourite songs, they sang and played like robots, only talking briefly to the crowd twice, with a couple of 'arigatos' thrown in. I felt they were in a hurry to play their songs and get the hell out of there. The lead singer never said a thing (except to sing of course), nor smiled even once, leaving the couple of comments to one of the guitarists. Here they are finishing up their show on the White Stage.
We went to get a late lunch after that, and while waiting in line for pizza, we listened to Jonathan Richman who I'd never even heard of, but was one of the better acts of the day with his humorous songs and antics.
In the early evening we listened to 'Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra', a band that has been around forever, and has a large following here in Japan. Not bad but no match for....
'Soul Flower Union'! Another Japanese band and hard to classify. They seemed to be a mix of ska, rock and folk music, but overall they were excellent and for me, stole the whole show. I would've taken some pictures and video of them but I was too busy dancing around like a maniac, as was everyone else. Their music was like pure energy!
The last act before we left, and before my energy levels crashed was 'The Chemical Brothers', the super huge electronic duo. Their show consisted of techno beats, flashing lights, lasers and psychadelic images, and would probably have been much more interesting for someone on LSD, not that I condone drug use of course.
It being a concert, I focused more on (crappy) video footage rather than pictures. However I didn't know you weren't allowed to take videos. At The Shins performance, one of the security guards shouted at me to stop filming. Check him out at the end of their segment with his arms crossed. Was also standing too close to the speakers when filming The Shins, so the sound quality is horrible. Sorry.
Was the Fuji Rock Festival good enough to warrant going next year then? Overall I found it a bit too expensive and crowded for my tastes. I'll make a decision when I see who's playing I suppose.
So ends the month of July with three fantastic adventures. Will August be as exciting? Although I hope so, July will be a tough act to follow unless I find a bag of money in a garbage dump, or something like that. Adventuring in Japan doesn't come cheap!