If there was ever any doubt that this is a nation of music lovers, a summer spent in Japan would be enough to put that doubt to rest. Music festivals abound from Hokkaido to Okinawa, with offerings ranging from traditional Japanese music to straight-up rock’n’roll and everything in between. There are so many festivals that choosing which one to attend can be a difficult task, so to make it a little bit easier here’s our guide to the best of Japan’s best music festivals.
This music festival, now in its 27th year, is Okinawa’s largest and one of Japan’s oldest. It focuses on local Okinawan talent, with both amateur and established artists, although mainland Japanese and occasional international acts also perform. The 2009 line-up includes Heaven’s Hemp, Bleach, Zukan, Flip, Aria Asia, Mongol 800, and the tribute bands Makin’ Love (Kiss) and Freddie Eto & Queeness (Queen).
More Information: http://www.koza.ne.jp/events/peaceful/
The Arion-Edo Foundation brings a diverse array of mostly lesser-known musicians to various venues throughout Tokyo. Performances include the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa conducted by Michiyoshi Inoue, ukulele master Eddie Kamae, and Japanese Electronic Music, featuring music by composers Ryuichi Sakamoto and Somei Satoh.
More Information: http://www.arion-edo.org/tsf/2009/?lang=en
Considered to be among the best music festivals in the world, the Fuji Rock Festival may also be the most beautiful. Long having outgrown its namesake venue, Fuji Rock is held in Naeba, a ski resort in Niigata, taking advantage of the existing facilities to offer a festival that is cleaner, safer and more picturesque than any other. Seven main stages feature live music with other venues hosting DJs, more live bands and chill-out areas. 100,000 people are expected to attend the 13th Fuji Rock Festival to see headliners Oasis, Franz Ferdinand and Weezer, and other acts like Bad Brains, the Neville Brothers, Peaches, Public Enemy, Booker T, and the Killers.
More Information: http://www.smash-uk.com/frf09/lineup.html
This event brings the music of Okinawa, both traditional and modern, to Tokyo. Hosted by the Okinawan comedy duo Kyan X Kyan and featuring a performance of eisa, Okinawa’s traditional dance, the musical acts include Misako Oshiro, Suguru Ikeda, Kariyushi 58 and Parsha Club.
More Information: http://www.mandicompany.co.jp/hp2007/live/ryukyu07/ryukyu07.html
Rock in Japan is the largest music festival in the country featuring exclusively Japanese talent. The ninth annual Rock in Japan will feature over 140 acts, including Izumiya Shigeru, Triceratops, Rip Slyme, Dragon Ash, Puffy and Ulfuls.
More Information: http://www.rijfes.co.jp
Summer Sonic is known for its big names and convenient locations: unlike Fuji Rock and other festivals, the venues are in the city. Two cities, actually, with Summer Sonic being held simultaneously in Chiba and Osaka and most artists zipping back and forth to perform in both cities. Acts this year include Beyonce, Placebo, Linkin Park, Ne-yo, Mogwai, Nine Inch Nails, Sonic Youth, Flaming Lips, Joan Jett, Elvis Costello, and The Specials.
More Information: http://www.summersonic.com
Hosted by Sado Island-based Kodo, the internationally famed taiko group, Earth Celebration is popular not only for its musical acts but for its music and dance workshops, creative vibe, and beautiful setting. The main stage will feature performances by Kodo and the Dutch group BLOF, both separately and in collaboration. Other performances include modern and traditional drumming and dance.
More Information: http://www.kodo.or.jp/ec/home/index_en.html
Hokkaido’s biggest music festival, now in its 11th year, will feature Japanese bands like Guitar Wolf, Chara, Begin, Dragon Ash, and Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra.
More Information: http://rsr.wess.co.jp
Produced by Space Shower TV, and taking place at a venue not far from the original Fuji Rock, Sweet Love Shower concentrates on Japanese talent. This year’s acts include Elephant Kashimashi, Unicorn, The Bawdies, and Chatmonchy.
More Information: http://www.sweetloveshower.com
Hosted by Mighty Crown Sound System, this is Japan’s biggest Reggae festival, attracting over 30,000 reggae and dancehall fans. Mighty Crown and a number of Japanese artists will perform, along with a special surprise guest from Jamaica (past guests have included Beenie Man, Tony Matterhorn, TOK & Daville, and Wayne Wonder).
More Information: http://www.yokohamareggaesai.com/outline