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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 July 2007, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
No mud at 'Japan's Glastonbury'
By Brady Haran and Kylie Pentelow
Fuji Rock, Japan


Naeba ski resort
The resort has huge mountains overlooking the crowd and stages
Clean toilets, polite fans and even hot showers - can this really be a music festival?

Japan's version of Glastonbury - the Fuji Rock Festival - finished on Sunday night at Naeba, about 75 minutes from Tokyo by bullet train.

But for people familiar with the UK's music festivals, it was a completely different experience.

As you would expect, a long list of international artists performed, ranging from The Cure to The Chemical Brothers.

But while Fuji Rock is unashamedly based on Glastonbury, it has taken on a decidedly Japanese flavour.

For example, how many UK festival-goers would happily leave their valuables lying on picnic rugs while they popped off to buy lunch?

And where else would queues for recycling bins be longer than those for beer?

Smokers even diligently pop their butts into portable ashtrays.

Festival queue
The queue for official merchandise was endless, day and night

This Japanese fixation on tidiness and recycling creates a pleasant and enjoyable space for watching music - enhancing a site which is already breathtaking.

The various stages are dotted along the Naeba valley (a ski resort in the winter) and everything is interconnected by winding paths, picturesque boardwalks and meandering streams.

Stages are dwarfed by a green wall of mountains and one performance space is reached only by a 5.4km cable car ride.

Endless queuing

Japanese music fans move between stages and watch performances in a polite and friendly manner, perhaps perplexed by the small pockets of westerners more willing to express their emotions.

That is not to say the Japanese fans are not without their quirks, most noticeably their eagerness to purchase "official merchandise".

It seems they will queue for hours in searing heat to buy the latest band T-shirts, with queues for other commodities (such as beer) being non-existent.

Japan's best-known festival started near Mt Fuji in 1997 (hence the name Fuji Rock) but has been held at Naeba since 1999.

Campers on the golf course
Campers overlooked the site, pitching their tents on a golf course
Fittingly for a country obsessed with golf, the campsite sits on a mountainside golf course.

Campers stake claims to the flattest piece of fairway or pitch tents in sandy bunkers, with the only prohibited areas being the roped-off putting greens.

Queues for toilets and the limited showers are inevitably long at peak times, though toilet hygiene levels are usually better than anything you will see in the UK.

And for those willing to wait a bit longer, there is even a hot spa loaded with posh soap and shampoos.

But of course a music festival is really about music, and this year's line-up stands comparison to any big festival around the world.

Along with numerous Japanese acts, headliners included The Cure, The Chemical Brothers and Beastie Boys.

Also on performing were Muse, Groove Armada, Mika, Iggy and the Stooges, Kaiser Chiefs and Kings of Leon.

Emerging UK bands such as The Pigeon Detectives and The Wombats were also popular with Japanese audiences.

The first two days of the festival were stifling hot, though shady spots and cool drinks were never far away.

And British artist Jarvis Cocker enthusiastically told revellers how lucky they were to have so much sunshine.

After describing the misery of muddy British festivals, he pointed to the blue sky and dramatic green mountain backdrop, telling the fans: "This is paradise."


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