I went to Fuji Rock Festival in the summer of 2017 with a few friends. It was my first multi-day music festival experience and here is how we made it happen as well as what I’ve learned from it.
Going to Fuji Rock requires planning in advance. The venue is not easy to get to for foreigners (like myself) and accommodation can also be difficult to get. But fear not, we managed to make it happen – and so can you!
Alright, let’s get into it.
How to get to the Festival
Fuji Rock, despite the name might have suggested, is not held anywhere near Mount Fuji. It’s actually held in Naeba, a mountainous region famous for its ski resorts 2-hour drive away 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. There are more options to choose from the city.
By Shinkansen train
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 the festival ground or to your accommodation area.
Another option is to rent a car and drive to Naeba, which is what we did and was immensely convenient. It takes about 2-3 hours to drive here from Tokyo and you need an International driving license.
Where to stay for Fuji Rock Festival
The most affordable accommodation in Fuji Rock is to set up a tent and camp. There are campsites right next to the festival site – but you HAVE TO buy a ¥3,000 campsite ticket and bring your own camping equipment. You can have your camping equipment shipped to the festival ground if you don’t want to lug it around. Find more information on camping ticket prices here.
However, I have to warn you that the weather in Naeba is normally not ideal in the summer. It rains nearly all day and the ground becomes muddy 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 is held every year, 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 areas are snapped up quickly. But what people don’t know is that the shuttle bus actually makes two stops between Echigo-Yuzawa and Naeba, at carparks in Mitsumata and Tashiro. I think this is intended for those who chose to drive to Fuji Rock but does not want to buy a parking permit at the festival site (which costs ¥3,000 and requires a reservation in advance).
Those who are staying at Mitsumata and Tashiro can also utilize the shuttle bus for free so you can totally stay around this area! Some useful links:
- Accommodations in Mitsumata
- Accommodations in Yuzawa
- You can also try contacting other lodges in Mitsumata directly – here is a list of them. Or you can look through sites like booking.com or Rakuten.
- Other accommodations in Naeba area (This requires your own transport to Fuji Rock)
- Shuttle Bus information from Fuji Rock website
To help you better visualize the area you will be dealing with, here is a map of the general Fuji Rock and ski resort area. I have also marked the shuttle bus route and the stops it makes along the way.
For Fuji Rock 2017, I managed to book the last room for 4 people at a Charlie Brown lodge in Mitsumata in March. That’s a solid four months before the festival. Not gonna lie, it was really expensive – we each paid ¥24,100 (SGD300 / USD220) for 3 nights from Friday – Sunday.
And for that price, the lodge was VERY basic. All four of us slept Japanese-style on a futon (rollable mattress) the floor and shared the two communal shower room downstairs with the rest of the lodge. The bathroom-sharing situation got annoying on Saturday night (most popular day) since everyone got back to the lodge at the same time and there was a wait for the shower. One person using the ladies shower room even occupied it for over an hour, forcing the rest of us to use the men’s shower room -_-!
The lodge also does not have amenities like towels and toothbrush so you have to bring your own. But, I suppose this is still a step up than sleeping in the tent…
Charlie, the owner of the lodge (as evident from the name), 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.
I STILL can’t find accommodations! what do I do?
Another idea is to find other accommodations in Naeba area, then rent a car and drive to one of the designated shuttle stops I’ve marked above. Make sure you have an international license though or else you cannot rent a car in Japan. These shuttle stops are basically large carparks which can hold hundreds of cars. You can view a list of Naeba accommodations here. Do NOT drive to Fuji Rock festival site itself, since parking at the site requires a dedicated parking pass which you have to secure ahead of time.
Aside from that, your best bet is camping which I have elaborated before.
Fuji Rock Festival Ground – Stage Map
This map is for the festival ground of Fuji Rock in 2017, but it seems to be the same set up every year. Check here for the latest map.
In a nutshell, 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 are 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 local and chill out acts, and is my favorite part of the festival ground.
What to expect, bring and do at Fuji Rock
Fuji Rock packing list
To be fully ready, you should bring these:
- A pair of rubber rain boots. Because it will get muddy! I will elaborate more on these rubber boots below.
- Raincoat. Choose one that is sturdy and made of a water-proof material (NOT water-resistant) that you can use over and over again. Ideally, it should also have a hood because if your experience is anything like mine, it rained the entire weekend and umbrellas are not allowed inside the festival ground.
- A water bottle. Fuji Rock is a plastic-free zone! You can get free water by bringing your own water bottle.
- Backpack cover. If you are carrying a backpack, bring something to cover your backpack from the rain. Otherwise, make sure you place all your electronics inside a waterproof bag.
- Toilet paper / wet tissue for the toilet. They usually have this but it’s good to be prepared.
- Picnic mat or Foldable chair if you plan to sit. Otherwise, there are not many places you can sit on during the festival!
Expect to walk, and expect to walk a lot.
There is no other way for you to shuffle between stages except on foot. And, the stages are quite far apart! So yes, you’ll be walking a lot during your time here. Expect 30-45 minutes walking time to get to the White Stage and Field of Heaven from the main entrance.
Wear proper shoes! And by that, I meant shoes that are meant for walking in the rain and mud. I will elaborate more on my next point-
Be prepared for rain. And lots of mud.
Bring rain/rubber boots and a plastic poncho but don’t bring umbrellas as they are not allowed inside the festival ground. We didn’t prepare for boots, but we managed to get a few rubber pairs for $10-20 at a store in Yuzawa last minute.
Some tips on picking out boots
If you do decide to get a 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 each time I took a step and by the end of day 3, it had caused skin abrasions 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 which is sold separately in stores in Japan so that rainwater will not get into your boots. My boots (the red one) was totally open and I had to empty them off periodically as it was filled with rain water by the end of the day.
Bring snacks and water bottles, or be prepared to queue.
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 never short of 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 you buy at convenience stores).
Bring your own toilet paper or wet tissue for the bathroom.
As with every music festivals, the toilet situation did get pretty gross by the end of each day. I actually think Fuji Rock organizer did a great job organizing enough toilet and ensuring the line moves fast considering the sheer number of festival-goers, but sometimes they might run out of toilet paper so it’s a good idea to bring your own.
Be mindful of time.
In a true Japanese fashion, all of the shows start right on time and right on the dot. You want to be early to get a good spot especially if it’s a popular act. When planning your schedule, keep in mind the time it takes to walk between stages since they are far apart from each other and the path is quite narrow. Fuji Rock is attended by 100,000 – 150,000 festival goers, so during peak festival time (aka 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 parking lot, it will still take you another 20 minutes or so to walk to the entrance of the festival.
Conserve 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 were on our feet for 9+ hours every day. My back was killing me by the end of it all… So, whenever you can sit down, sit down and conserve your energy! Which brings me to my next point:
Bring something to sit on.
Be it a foldable picnic chair, or a plastic picnic mat or even just a plastic bag. Make sure they are waterproof since the ground would be wet. There is some seating area throughout the festival ground but they are very limited and not near any of the stages.
Do explore the festival ground.
In between acts, there are so much you can do at Fuji Rock! You can take the gondola up the hill for a beautiful view (¥1,500 round trip) or explore the smaller stages for unexpected acts. 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. Oh, Japan…
We 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. We had to turn back because we saw no signs of the onsen after 10 minutes and did not want to miss Bonobo, but it was still a fun walk!
Expect to be green.
I really have to hand it to the Fuji Rock organizer for being mindful of the environment. There were plenty of recycling points on the festival ground, and attendees are instructed to separate their food trash (referred to in Japan as “burn-ables”, aka items that can be incinerated) from plastic and paper. We also noticed food was served using environmentally friendly materials, no plastics!
Don’t forget about the last shuttle bus time.
To make it on time for the last shuttle, you pretty much have to rush out after the last act. On Saturday night you can 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 efficiently.
And of course last but not least… expect to have a smashing good time! 😀 I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Fuji Rock, watching Lorde, Bjork, LCD Soundsystem, Gorrilaz, Bonobo – just to name a few… I hope you will have an amazing time too!
Visiting Japan after the festival?
If you are exploring other parts of Japan after the festival, be sure to check out my other Japan posts!