I went for Fuji Rock Festival in the summer of 2017. It was my first multi-day music festival. Here is how I made it happen and what I’ve learned from it.
Experiencing Fuji Rock requires lots of planning in advance. The venue is not easy to get to for foreigners like myself, and accommodation is also difficult to get. But fear not, if I managed to make it happen – so can you! Here are my notes from the festival:
How to get to the Festival
The closest station to Fuji Rock event is Echigo-Yuzawa, reachable by Shinkansen from Tokyo. From there you can catch the shuttle bus straight to festival ground or to your accommodation area. Another option is to rent a car and drive which was what we did. Both options will take about 2-3 hours from Tokyo.
If you are flying from outside of Japan, I highly suggest flying into Haneda instead of Narita. It will save you so much time since Haneda is in the city and Narita is in Chiba.
Where to stay for Fuji Rock Festival
Camping ($) – The most affordable accommodation is to camp. There are campsites right next to the festival site, all you have to do is buy a ¥3,000 camp site ticket and bring your own camping equipments. You can even have your things shipped to the festival ground if you don’t want to lug it around. You can find more information on ticket prices here.
(However, the weather in Naeba is normally not very good in the summer, so I really can’t recommend camping. You’ll see why in the pictures below later.)
Ski Lodges ($$$$) – If you aren’t keen on camping, your best bet is to book way early for a lodge in the area. Naeba, where the festival happens, is normally known in the winter for its soft powder and ski slopes so there are plenty of these lodges around but they do get booked up very fast during Fuji Rock.
Throughout the festival there are frequent shuttle buses going from Echigo-Yuzawa station to Naeba. Most people know that Naeba and Echigo-Yuzawa Station is known as a good area to stay for the festival, so accommodation in those area would be snapped up fairly quickly. But what most people didn’t know is that the shuttle bus actually makes two stops between Echigo-Yuzawa and Naeba, at carparks in Mitsumata and Tashiro area. I think this is originally intended for those who chose to drive to Fuji Rock without parking at the festival site which costs ¥3,000 and requires a reservation in advance. However, those who are staying at Mitsumata and Tashiro can also utilize the shuttle bus for free.
For Fuji Rock 2017, I managed to book the last room for 4 people at a Charlie Brown lodge in Mitsumata in March, four months before the festival. Not gonna lie though, it was really expensive – we each paid ¥24,100 (SGD300 / USD220) for 3 night from Friday – Sunday. The lodge itself was also very basic but comfortable. All four of us slept on the floor, Japanese style, and shared two shower room downstairs with the rest of the lodge, which got annoying on Saturday night since everyone got back at the same time. But I suppose this is still better than sleeping in the tent…
Charlie, the owner of the lodge, told me that if we book straight from him, he could give a cheaper rate. I wish I knew this before booking through booking.com.
You can also try contacting other lodges in Mitsumata, here is a list of them. Or you can look through sites like booking.com or Rakuten.
Here is a map of the area. I have marked the shuttle bus route and the stops it makes along the way.
Festival Ground – Stage Map
This map is for Fuji Rock 2017, but it seems to be the same setup every year. Check here for the latest map.
Fuji Rock is divided into four main areas – Red Marquee, Green Stage, White Stage and Field of Heaven. There are other smaller areas too, but most of the main acts would play in one of these stages.
In terms of accessibility, Red Marquee and Green Stage is pretty easy to get to from the entrance, while White Stage is a bit further in and Field of Heaven is probably the hardest to get to, since you need to go through the boardwalk which can get congested.
Red Marquee usually hosts up and coming acts, while Green and White would host the main acts. Field of Heaven hosts more local / chill out act, and is my favorite part of the festival ground.
What to expect, bring and do at Fuji Rock
Expect to walk, and expect to walk a lot. There is no other way for you to shuffle between stages except to walk and they are quite far apart.
Be prepared for rain. And lots of mud. Bring rain / plastic / rubber boots and a plastic poncho but don’t bring umbrella as they are not allowed inside festival ground. We didn’t prepare for boots but managed to get a few rubber pairs for $10-20 at the store in Yuzawa town last minute.
Some tips on boots: If you do decide to get rubber pair of boots like my red one, i suggest getting high socks as well. The top of the rubber part ended up rubbing against my shins and caused some blister that took weeks to heal…
Also, you should either get one that has a drawstring covering (see the blue boots in the picture below) or get the rain boots cover (sold separately in Japan) so that rain water will not get into your boots. My boots (the red one) was totally open, and I had to empty my boots off as it was basically a pool of water by the end of the day.
Bring snacks and water bottle or you’ll waste time queueing. I actually found the food and drinks option and the festival to be quite diverse and priced sensibly – dishes and snacks range from 500-1600 yen. There are also food stalls around each stage so you are not short for options, however the queue can get quite long during peak meal time so it’s a good idea to stock some onigiri and other snacks in case you get super hungry. When I went, Zojirushi was giving away free hot / cold tea for those who brought their own proper reusable water bottle (not those plastic one-time-use water bottles).
Bring your own toilet paper or wet tissue. As with every music festivals, the toilet situation did get pretty gross by the end of each day. I think Fuji Rock organizer did a great job organizing enough toilet and ensuring the line moves fast, but sometimes they would run out of toilet paper so it’s a good idea to bring your own.
Be mindful of time. Sets do start right on time, so you want to be early to get a good spot. When planning your schedule, keep in mind the time it takes to walk between these stages since they are far apart from each other and the path is narrow. Fuji Rock is attended by 100,000 – 150,000 people, so during peak festival time (Saturday) it can take up to 30-45 minutes to get to one stage to another. Also, once you get off the shuttle bus at Naeba Prince Hotel, it will still take you another 20 minutes or so to walk to the entrance of the festival.
Reserve your energy and use them smartly. The main acts would play late into the night, so it’s very likely you won’t get back to your accommodation until well after midnight. We stood around 9+ hours everyday. My back was killing me by the end of it all…
Bring something to sit on. Be it a picnic chair, or a plastic picnic mat. Make sure they are waterproof since the ground would be wet.
Do explore the festival ground. In between acts, there are so much you can do in Fuji Rock! You can take the gondola up the hill for a beautiful view (¥1,500 round trip) or explore the smaller stages. We came across this guy who was making udon to the beat of the music, while chanting “Udon is rock! Udon is rock!” followed by a crowd dancing and chanting the same thing.
I also went on a little side quest trying to find an onsen. Long story short, we saw a sign that says onsen while walking between stages. Curious creatures we are, we decided to follow the sign into the woods. The ground was soft due to the non stop rain and I was ankle-deep in mud at some points. Had to turn back because we saw no signs of the onsen after 10 minutes and did not want to miss Bonobo.
Expect to be green. I really have to hand it to the Fuji Rock organizer for caring about the environment. There were plenty of recycling points on the festival ground, and attendees are instructed to separate their food trash (burnables) from plastic and paper. We also noticed food were served using environmentally friendly materials.
Don’t forget about the last shuttle bus time. To make it on time you pretty much have to rush out after the last act. On Saturday night, also expect to queue up a bit for the last bus since it’s peak time. But don’t worry – the queue moves very fast.
And of course last but not least… expect to have a smashing good time! :) I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Fuji Rock, watching Lorde, Bjork, LCD Soundsystem, Gorrilaz, Bonobo to name a few… I hope you will have an amazing time too!