An Interview With a Diehard Fuji Rock Fan: Shinji Kaneko
A Spokesperson for the Masses
Shinji Kaneko is a die-hard fan of the Fuji Rock festival. He has been here four times as a fan, and a few times as a part-time support worker. I was lucky enough to get an interview with him today as he hung out near the Green Stage, to give international fans a perspective of the situation, from ground zero, in English.
Tiernan: Mr. Kaneko, thank you very much for agreeing to this interview.
Shinji: Thank you very much for having me!
Tiernan: How many times have you been here (to Fuji Rock) before?
Shinji: Five or six times, I’d say.
Tiernan: Do you remember in which years that was?
Shinji: I was here…in 2008 (?) which was the first time. And, I worked here as like a translator, in 2012, and 2013. And, I’ve been back as a simple fan for three years in a row now, in 2018, 19, and now 21.
Tiernan: Sweet! Could you please share with us some of your favorite memories from the festival, like, different artists that you’ve seen, and also different experiences that you had here that you liked, that weren’t necessarily related to concerts?
Shinji: Well, for the first time I was here, I stayed in the campsite. And, before that, the only other large festival that I had been to in Japan was Summer Sonic. But, here, for Fuji Rock, I could camp in the mountains! I think I love the location of this festival a lot! The first time that you come to the Green Stage (which is set in a large clearing in the forest) it’s really breathtaking and awesome.
Tiernan: What are some of your favorite musical events that you’ve seen at Fuji Rock in terms of artists and things like that?
Shinji: The performance that was most memorable for me was Rodrigo y Gabriela! That was the very first act that I saw here, on the Green Stage, in 2008. They totally blew my mind! I was totally not expecting to see artists like that here.
Tiernan: Do you have any positive memories about fan interaction between you and other music fans?
Shinji: Well, the past three times…I used to live in the Otsuka and Ikebukuro area (of Tokyo) and there was a bar nearby. And, many of their regular customers were fans of the Fuji Rock festival. And, three years ago, there were like twenty of us that came to this festival together! So, it’s been a great time.
Tiernan: Let’s get to the festival this year, and how things are unfolding. How do you feel about the restrictions, and everything that’s been put in place due to the pandemic this year?
Shinji: Um, it feels like, you know…like, in the beginning, I was thinking, “Aw, this is not great…I want to drink, and sing and scream along (to the music).” [ed: Fuji Rock has safety measures in place this year, because of the pandemic, which include a prohibition on alcohol and the raising of one’s voice.] “That felt a bit negative. However, that was necessary, I feel, in this situation, because the pandemic is getting quite bad in Tokyo. So, I feel Fuji Rock is doing a great job, because many other festivals are getting cancelled. And Fuji Rock has all these dots (colored pegs) on the ground, to remind people to respect social distancing. And, I think they are doing a great job.
Tiernan: So, even if – worst case scenario – the pandemic was still happening next year, would you still recommend this festival to overseas music fans, considering what is happening this year?
Shinji: Definitely! I don’t know. I didn’t see anyone acting crazy! Generally Japanese people behave very well. It feels safe inside this festival! We’re outside, and people are staying away from each other. And, this year the festival is only allowing half of the usual ticket sales. And, I imagine even next year it would be fine. And, I think, I’ve been doing the same thing every day for months – working from home – and being able to come out to the mountains to see live shows is a beautiful thing. I actually cried a few times out of happiness during this festival, because in the past live concerts seemed like a normal thing, but in the past two years we’ve had to do without that healing catharsis. It’s great for your soul and your mental health.
Tiernan: And, obviously, I imagine, if the pandemic has died down by next year, I imagine you would recommend this festival to music fans who live outside Japan?
Shinji: Yeah! It’s the best party in Japan! Yeah, I’ve been to festivals like Coachella in the U.S., but nothing compares to Fuji Rock. I wanna see people from all around the world. Japanese people are known for being polite and kind of square. I guess that’s kind of our image, but here you can see different sides of the Japanese populace. We have fun, and we have a good time here. So, uh, yeah. I think it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Japan.
Tiernan: One last question. What are your hopes for the future of Fuji Rock?
Shinji: I love this festival! I don’t care so much about the lineups, per se. I mean, I would like to see more foreign acts again, like they always had in past years, but that’s it. I just want Fuji Rock to return to the greatness it had before. Yeah, one of the drawbacks this year is that it’s all Japanese artists, and that’s the only thing missing for me; more foreign acts. That’s what Fuji Rock stands for. And (if I was to name a specific genre) I guess I like singer-songwriters, so it would be nice to see more of those as well.
Tiernan: Thank you very much for this interview, Mr. Kaneko!
Shinji: Thank you for having me!
P.S. Mr. Shinji Kaneko even recorded a song about how much he loves the Fuji Rock festival. And, you can hear it HERE if you like.
[Photo: 1 All photo]