Posted on 2013/08/14 10:14
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Guest Post: Fuji Rock — The mirage in the mountains; chasing the dream

The following is a guest contribution to Fujirock Express by James, the host of Urbanize on the online radio station 98.2 The Beat Japan.  James wanted to share his post-fest reflections:

A little over two weeks have passed since the big event ended for another year. This time passing and having recently talked in person with one the founder and producer of Fujirock Express, Koichi Hanafusa, has allowed me to try to see this rock festival for what it really is. It’s hard to put into words what makes this festival so magical when comparing to other festivals or concerts. It is something that everyone who goes is chasing; it’s why people travel half way across Japan, or half way across the world to get there.  I had previously gone to the festival only for two days; this allowed me a glimpse at that shimmering perfection in the middle of the Niigata mountains. I knew that two days wasn’t enough, this year I had to do whatever it took to experience this thing in its entirety and see what it was we were all in pursuit of.  Being an avid concert goer I have had a taste of this musical nirvana that sweeps over you while at a show, and immediately puts a smile on your face that can’t be exchanged for anything in the world. You look over at the person next to you and realize that person has the same goofy smile glued to their face too. This is what Fuji Rock is, only it lasts four days and is not only about music. It’s the people and their enthusiasm, it’s the camping and being surrounded by lush green, it’s being woken up at eight a.m. by the burning sun turning your tent into a sauna – only to have that smile return as soon as you hear the first of the bands practicing for the day. The beats of the drum and guitar riffs echo throughout the mountains as you zip open your tent surrounded by hundreds of others doing the same. Fuji Rock is good food, good drink, trees, rivers, valleys, big stages, small stages, hearing your favorite music and discovering new favorites. The vastness and variety of music is what makes it special too, from being among fifty thousand people at the main stages to around fifty at the small stages in the middle of the forest or on the top of the mountain. The people, who attend this festival and realize that this kind of musical vacation exists, are almost instinctively drawn back time and time again. It’s rare that you will meet someone who has only attended once, especially someone coming for the full duration of the festival. It’s something people need in their lives, and if they can hold out until next year to make the pilgrimage up to Niigata again, everything else in their lives will be okay. Never mind the cost or means of getting there, the rain, the mud, the blazing sun, or sleeping on the ground.  It’s like what Bob Marley sang, “one good thing about music, when it hits you, feel no pain.”

It has been hard to even find the right words to make others understand, like discovering a new song or film, it often has to be experienced first hand to fully understand. Of course, great songs and great films have similarities to average ones, just as this festival has similarities to other festivals, but it’s when you delve deeper that you start to realize why Fuji is the Holy Grail. The cleanliness, the food, the music, the scenery, the diversity, the people, the joy, the passion, and the overall feeling of togetherness is something I have never experienced before. To reconcile some of my feelings I am drawn to a favorite quote from Hunter Thompson, “Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run, but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.”